Fairfax County's director of design review, who monitored all proposed building site plans and engineering design plans in the county, was asked to resign after county officials were unable to verify his educational record, according to sources in the county and the building industry.

Barry Thompson, an eight-year county employe, had been the third-ranking official in the county's department of environmental management for less than three weeks when he resigned July 5.

Thompson, who could not be reached for comment, was given the choice of resigning his position, which paid about $54,000 a year, or being fired, sources said. He chose to resign, and said in his letter of resignation that he was taking a job in private industry.

County sources who asked not to be named would not say why they decided to check Thompson's resume, but said he was was asked to resign after county officials were unable to confirm that he had either a bachelor's degree in engineering or a master's degree in business administration from the University of Maryland, as he had stated on his job application.

County officials said they reviewed a memorandum by County Attorney David T. Stitt, outlining the county's options in the case, before deciding to ask for Thompson's resignation.

Thompson, said to be in his 40s, is the third senior employe in recent months to leave the Department of Environmental Management, which oversees building applications, site inspections and bonding by builders. County officials acknowledged that the latest departure leaves the department short of senior-level experience at a time when the county is handling a flood of building applications.

"It's a question of stamina," said Denton U. Kent, deputy county executive for planning and development. "Can we keep up the pace without people who are more seasoned?"

County officials said Thompson was hard-working and generally well regarded. He had been acting director of design review since March before being named the full-time director of design review the last week of June.

He became acting director after Stuart T. Terrett was removed from the position and transferred to a management position at the county landfill. County officials said at the time they removed Terrett to improve the department.

Oscar Hendrickson, who was in charge of site review in the department, also was moved to the landfill at the time. The development community, often at odds with the department of environmental management, criticized the moves, charging that the application review process had become sluggish because of the shortage of experienced officials.

County Personnel Director Cornelius J. O'Kane said yesterday that a bachelor's degree in civil engineering would be a minimum requirement for the post Thompson held.

With the exception of the police and fire departments and the sheriff's office, most county offices do not check applicants' educational credentials, according to O'Kane.

O'Kane said he could not remember another case of resume falsification in Fairfax in the last several years. Maryland recently had a celebrated case when Elaine Bridgman, Baltimore's director of promotion and tourism, resigned in March from her $48,480-a-year post after city officials discovered that she did not have the degree that she claimed.

Fairfax has named Lt. Col. Irving Birmingham, the executive officer for the Army Research and Development Center at Fort Belvoir, to replace Thompson, effective Aug. 5. He is retiring from the Army.