The Republican majority of the Arlington County Board, which two weeks ago decided to fire County Manager Vernon Ford, was unsuccessful yesterday in its attempts to bring the matter of the county's top executive to a vote.

At its first public meeting since news of Ford's dismissal was announced to the press Aug. 7, Republican board chairman Stephen H. Detwiler called for a recess at 2 p.m. to "discuss a personnel matter" in executive session. But the board reconvened 45 minutes later without a mention of Ford, who continues to be "on leave."

Detwiler said later that he had asked for the executive session intending to prepare for a public airing of the Ford situation, which must be decided by a public vote. He withdrew the request, he said, when the board's Democratic member and independent member refused to give assurances that they would not leak contents of the session to the news media.

News of Ford's dismissal first was made public at a press conference called by Democrat John Milliken and independent Ellen M. Bozman, who complained following a similar executive session that their GOP counterparts had made the decision to fire Ford privately and without consultingh them.

Going into the executive session yesterday, Republican Dorothy T. Grotos voiced reservations that the discussion would remain confidential, Detwiler said. When Milliken and Bozman declined to assure the meeting's secrecy, Detwiler called it off, he said.

Reached at home last night, Milliken said he never was approached about the matter of the session's secrecy and was not informed of Detwiler's reasons for canceling the meeting.

"I can't characterize their reasons," Milliken said. "Nobody specifically asked me. And nobody told me what the executive session would be about, although it wouldn't be too hard to guess."

In other business, the board unanimously approved a new National Airport policy proposed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis that would ban wide-body jets from the facility, extend from 650 to 1,000 miles the length of nonstop flights from the airport and place a ceiling of 16 million on the number of passengers who use National each year.

The board also approved an immediate increase in Arlington's taxi fare rates, with a typical three-mile fare rising about 9 percent to $3.80.