The District's largest public employe union, which for months has been wracked by internal upheaval, yesterday was temporarily relieved of its administrative responsibilities by its parent union, according to a well-placed D.C. government source.

Officials of Council 20 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 12,000 D.C. government employes, sought help of AFSCME's international leaders when the local union was unable to resolve bitter disputes about its directorship and presidency, according to other union sources.

Dissension with the council was dramatized June 3 by the arrest of its acting director James M. Leak on charges that he pulled a gun on one of the union's local presidents.

AFSCME's national leaders called an emergency meeting of the council Wednesday night in an effort to resolve the factional in-fighting. At the meeting, Council 20 leaders voted to seek the parent union's help, according to Tom King, the union's director of field services.

"The council requested the national union's assistance, and we are going to provide it," King said. "The rest of the matters are internal union issues. We would prefer to concentrate on solving the problems rather than spending time debating in the press."

Asked if the AFSCME action involved both financial and administrative assistance, King said, "It will take various forms."

The immediate impact of yesterday's action on the union's day-to-day operations and decision making was unclear, and Council 20 officials refused comment.

Council 20, representing 15 D.C. government agencies and other groups, including some Red Cross and Howard University workers, has been divided since last year when longtime director Geraldine Boykin was removed on a vote of the council's 19-member executive board, according to union sources. Sources said that some board members were displeased with the managerial abilities of Boykin, who now works in AFSCME's national political affairs division.

With the council's board unable to decide on Boykin's successor, the union named Leak acting director.

The troubles were complicated June 3 when Leak, 62, was arrested on charges that he pulled a gun on Herman Lawton Jr., 34, a council board member who heads AFSCME Local 2426, which represents 150 Red Cross workers. Leak has pleaded innocent to charges of simple assault and possession of a prohibited weapon. He faces trial Aug. 1.

Lawton has sought both the director's job and the presidency of the council. Lawton has applied for Leak's job, and is currently challenging his defeat by Clara Webb, a D.C. schools employe, who was elected to the presidency last April. Webb could not be reached for comment and Lawton declined comment.