Alexandria City Council members said yesterday that they will wait until Feb. 23, only three days before City Manager Douglas Harman is scheduled to leave the city, to name his temporary replacement.

The council was scheduled to name an acting replacement for the city's top administrative official Tuesday, but delayed the decision, some members said, because of a memo senior city administrators sent to the council requesting that Deputy City Manager Clifford H. Rusch be nominated.

"I don't see the need for the professional staff to try to sway me on a policy matter," Mayor Charles E. Beatley said, referring to the confidential memo from five senior members of the city manager's staff.

Also complicating the usually perfunctory appointment of an acting manager is the current special grand jury investigation of Charles T. Strobel, the director of public safety who is under investigation for allegedly mishandling a police drug investigation, several council members said.

A city resolution names Strobel as fourth in line for the acting city manager's position. Beatley said yesterday that he will look into the resolution at the next council meeting.

The acting city manager will serve from Feb. 26, the date Harman leaves to become the city manager of Fort Worth, until the City Council selects a new manager, probably within four or five months.

"It was a condescending and insulting memo," said Democratic City Council member Donald C. Casey of the memo suggesting Rusch. "The tone of it was that we didn't know what to do."

Casey said he disagrees with the possible appointment of Rusch, 53, who on three occasions has served as acting city manager. "It would cripple the city if Rusch took over" because he would have to neglect his duties as special projects manager, Casey said.

Deputy City Manager Bradford Hammer and Assistant City Manager Michelle Evans, both of whom signed the Rusch memo, said it was only a request and not a recommendation. Hammer said, "Of course we'll work with anybody they select."

Republican council member Carlyle C. Ring said "part of the concern" that delayed the naming of an acting manager may have been worry about Strobel in the line of succession. "It seems it wasn't only Rusch," Ring said. "I'm willing to hear other proposals on the line of succession . . . . I think most of us are."

Beatley and several council members said they are likely to discuss and probably will alter the order of succession to the acting manager's office on Feb. 23, when they expect to announce the new interim manager.