The U.S. Postal Service has paid more than $1,200 a month to temporarily house a Washington postal executive in West Virginia and to fly her home most weekends since she was assigned there in October.

Julie B. McCarthy, 34, who normally runs the Washington area's bulk mail center in Largo, was allowed to settle into a $31.93-a-day hotel room in Clarksburg, W. Va., because she "couldn't find an apartment that was suitable," a postal service spokesman said yesterday.

McCarthy a $41,884-a-year executive could have found cheaper accommodations there, the spokesman conceded, but the quarters probably would not have been suitable for someone of her standing.

"A person who has a responsible management position can't go and just stay in some fleabag," said Jeanne O'Neill, the spokesman. "They have to be as comfortably accommodated as possible. There are certain conveniences we believe our managers should have."

McCarthy, who lives in Annandale, was sent to West Virginia to learn how to be a "sectional center manager," a position that places her over several dozen post offices in the state. Postal Service officials said the decision to send her there was typical of numerous temporary assignments it makes each year to the 850 members of its top level "executive service."

While footing McCarthy's bill at Clarksburg's Sheraton Inn, the Postal Service also has paid her its standard $16 daily expense allowance and picked up the $94 to $120 round-trip air fare for her weekend flights home, postal officials said. The cost of the flights vary depending on the travel plan under which she purchased the ticket.

McCarthy, currently attending a postal school in Bethesda, could not be reached yesterday. But spokesman O'Neill said flying her home most weekends actually saves the Postal Service money because she checks out of her hotel room from Friday morning until Monday afternoon.

Temporary assignments such as McCarthy's last at least six months and sometimes more than a year, said Frank Brennan, a spokesman for the Postal Service's Eastern Regional Office, which includes West Virginia.

"There's nothing unusual about these arrangements," he added. "There's nothing secretive about it."

"She's really benefited from her experience down there in Clarksburg," he said. "What we're trying to do is develop her career."

Brennan said all postal employes on out-of-town assignment receive a free trip home after three weeks.

"When you think about it, it only makes common sense. When an employe is on temporary assignment, the employe still has all the problems" of managing his home that he would normally face, the spokesman said.