D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane has accused the Barry administration of improperly passing over hundreds of laid-off city workers when it gave a $25,000 a year job last month to the wife of Barry's top political adviser, Ivanhoe Donaldson.

Winifred Donaldson, 41, began work March 8 as a special assistant to the city's water registrar in the Department of Environmental Services.

"Who can believe in the good faith of a city administration that passes over qualified RIFed employes on the job retention list and fills a DS 12 vacancy from the outside with the wife of the mayor's campaign manager," Kane, who is running for mayor, said in a speech at a candidates' forum Wednesday night.

"I don't know what she's Kane talking about," Barry said after the forum. Asked about the allegation that others were passed over to accommodate Winifred Donaldson, Barry said, "That is absolutely not true."

In an interview yesterday, Kane said: "I am furious, just outraged at the hypocrisy of it."

Winifred Donaldson's position was not advertised as vacant. The job is considered temporary and as such did not need to be posted, according to Jose Gutierrez, the city's personnel director.

Gutierrez said yesterday that Kane, "who should know better, is confused." He said that persons on the "priority list" of those laid off through a reduction in force (RIF) were not automatically considered for temporary jobs.

"They have to come in and specifically apply for temporary positions and then we would have to examine their qualifications against individual temporary positions," Guttierez said.

He added that he was unable on short notice yesterday to determine whether any laid-off employes had sought the Donaldson position.

Kane disputed Gutierrez, saying she believes otherwise. Moreover, she said, the issue is a "moral one."

About 800 city employes were RIFed in 1980 and 1981 as the city went through severe budget problems.

According to Barry's press secretary, Annette Samuels, "city regulations do say that if people are RIFed they are to be given priority consideration for rehiring if they are qualified."

Winifred Donaldson, who said she has worked 17 years in the federal government (principally as an aide to several Congressmen) and, more recently, as a real estate salesman, said yesterday that she knew nothing of the priority issue that Kane had raised.

"I'm not aware of the RIFs in D.C. or federal government; I just applied for a job," she said. She said she "never discussed" with her husband her decision to apply for a job in the city government.

Ivanhoe Donaldson is the acting director of the Department of Employment Services and is scheduled to leave that post next month to run Barry's reelection campaign. He could not be reached yesterday for comment.

In her job, Winifred Donaldson has been assigned to research and respond to written customer complaints about water billing, which has been a nagging problem in city government. "It's hard work," she said.

"This whole thing is so ridiculous," said water registrar Enrique Jograj, Donaldson's boss. "Her only fault is that she is Ivanhoe Donaldson's wife."

Jograj said his department had a backlog of about 500 complaints, some of them a year old, when Donaldson came aboard to augment a staff of six in the correspondence section.

That backlog has been reduced by about 100, and although in her temporary status she was hired for 30 days, she will be kept on indefinitely at least until the backlog is further reduced, he said.

"She's got skills we need; she's a good letter writer," Jograj said. "She's been able to sit down and answer customer's letters." He said her background in dealing with constituent complaints on Capitol Hill makes her "the kind of person we need."

Jograj said that even though he thought Donaldson was highly qualified for her job, he was initially reluctant to hire her when she applied because he feared "that the press would crucify us" because of her husband's relation to the mayor.

Jograj said that his boss, Environmental Services Director William B. Johnson, told him to ignore that concern and hire her if she was qualified.

Johnson said in an interview that Winifred Donaldson was an excellent hire and that his department needs more like her.