Arlington County Manager Larry J. Brown's plans to reorganize the top echelon of county government appear to have been caught in a political power struggle between a conservative Republican majority on the county's civil service commission and the new Democratic-controlled County Board.

Brown's reorganizational efforts were dealt a blow last week when commission members voted 3-to-2 against his request to change the job classifications of eight employes that he called "the catalyst, the critical mass" for the long-range reorganization of county government.

That negative vote, however, is only a hint of things to come, according to Anita H. Allen, a moderate Republican commission member who voted for Brown's reorganization plan.

"This seems to be a power struggle between the Democrats who control the County Board and the conservative Republicans who control the civil service commission," she said last week. "There is no doubt in my mind that the conservative Republicians who control the civil service commission and vote together in block really want to manage Arlington County."

According to Brown, the reorganizational changes are needed to reflect, expanded duties of the eight employes. He added that his proposed fiscal 1984 budget included funds for the requested changes. The three commissioners who voted against him, however, argued that government should be looking for ways to reduce costs and suggested Brown could accomplish within the existing structure the same goals the County Board set for him.

The commission has binding authority over employe job classifications, such as job descriptions and titles, but can only advise the county manager on proposed pay scales.

"The issue we were supposed to be discussing the other night was if the classifications were appropriate and valid," said commission chairman Ola P. Willoughby, the panel's only Democrat who voted with Allen. "But, instead, they skirted around the issue and talked about money . . . rather than discussing the classifications on their merit.

"The budget (implications) is for the County Board to determine, not us," she said.

Commissioner O. B. Stauffer, one of those who opposed the proposal declined to comment. But his fellow conservative Republican colleagues Robert E. Harrington and Howard Bovee denied that politics was a factor in their decision.

The commission is "a nonpolitical entity" and makes decisions "from a citizen's point of view," Harrington said.

Harrington, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican against County Board chairman Ellen M. Bozman, a Democrat, in 1981, said he "resented very much" the accusations of political partisanship.

Both Harrington and Bovee, a former school administrator who was an aide to Republican board member Walter L. Frankland when he was chairman, said the commission has a right to consider budget ramifications when reviewing proposed reclassifications.

Both also contended the commission had been free of partisan politics until it received a letter from Bozman saying the board was urging the commission to "consider" Brown's proposals "as expeditiously as possible."

Harrington said Bozman was trying to exert "undue political pressure on a nonpolitical operations."

Bozman said she did not clear the letter with any of the other board members and was merely reiterating a position taken by last year's Republican board chairman, Stephen H. Detwiler, that the commission give expeditious consideration to proposed reclassifications.

I don't understand what's political about this," Bozman said. "I asked [the commission] to act in a proper fashion and expeditiously. I didn't tell them to approve it, and I think it's incumbent upon all parts of government to act as judiciously and expenditiously as possible."

Bozman and fellow Democratic board members John G. Milliken and Mary Margaret Whipple, who defeated Detwiler in last fall's election, said no decisions would be made on the proposed job reclassifications until the board reviews Brown's budget.

Republican County Board members Dorothy T. Grotos and Frankland, who are up for reelection this fall, said they were unaware of the scope of Brown's plans until last week. Both said they suspect the board's Democrats were better briefed on the reorganization.

Board Democrats Milliken and Whipple denied they were given any more information than the Republicans and said they wanted more information on the proposals during budget deliberations.

Brown, unanimously appointed to his post last fall by a GOP-controlled County Board, he said he was disappointed in the commission's decision. Without the reorganization, which he said would ultimately result in fewer county jobs, his staff would have a harder time meeting the board's goals on time, Brown said.