A former staff member of Springwood, an exclusive private psychiatric center near Leesburg, has filed a $50 million libel and slander suit against various Loudoun County officials and a former psychiatric patient.

John Lyons, 45, said in the suit he was dismissed from his job as coordinator of the facility's chemical dependency program on Sept. 17 because of false allegations that he engaged in sexual intercourse with a former female patient who was 17 at the time.

The suit was filed last week in Loudoun County Circuit Court.

Along with the patient, who had been released from Springwood when the alleged incident occurred this summer, Lyons sued the County Board of Supervisors and three professionals with the county Community Services Board. Lyons is asking for $10 million in punitive and compensatory damages from each of the five parties.

In court papers, Lyons accuses the former patient of "maliciously and falsely" reporting to community services counselor Mary Atkins that she had engaged in sexual intercourse with Lyons. Atkins then told a superior, Sarah Stanley, also a defendant in the suit, that Lyons had admitted to the encounter, according to court documents.

After Stanley reported the incident to Philip Estes, director of the Community Services Board, Estes informed the director of Springwood that the county would halt referrals to the private facility "until John Lyons had been dismissed," the suit contends.

Officials at Springwood refused to comment on the case. Estes said he had been advised by the county's attorney not to comment on specifics.

"I can acknowledge there is a suit. I have been named. And the allegations are not true," said Estes.

A prepared statement released yesterday by Loudoun County Attorney Edward Finnegan maintains that "Mr. Lyons was not defamed . . . [his] employment was not terminated as a result of the alleged defamation."

Lyons couldnot be reached for comment. His attorney, John Moorcones, said he believed his client had been employed at Springwood since the 30-bed facility opened in November 1977.

Court officials said yesterday the $50 millon sought by Lyons is the highest amount in recent memory in the county. And attorneys said they expected to see countersuits filed in the case.

"Somebody's gonna collect a whole lot of money directly involved in the suit. "It's just a question of who and how much."