Call it the case of too much trash . . . collection, that is. That's what got three employes in the Baltimore solid waste bureau suspended without pay.

The three men performed their jobs much too well at least twice in the last two weeks, according to a spokesman for the Public Works Department, by hauling away four times as much garbage from a Baltimore restaurant as city regulations allow.

"The charge," said spokesman James Kapplin, "is simply picking up an excess amount of trash."

The department had been tipped off that city sanitation workers were picking up too much trash from The Admiral's Cup, a seafood restaurant in Baltimore's historic Fells Point area. The tip didn't come from an uninterested party. The commercial trash hauler under contract with the restaurant called the department, Kapplin said, apparently hoping to protect a source of income.

Sanitation supervisors followed the three workers on two successive Mondays, snapping photographs of their hauling practices.

"There's no question the men were picking up too much garbage," Kapplin said yesterday. "We're talking about 16-18 cans at one place. We've got photographs." The restaurant had been using a private collection company that hauled garbage four times a week, he said.

The manager of Admiral's Cup, David Paul, said that as far as he knows, the same company is still taking away the trash. "This is all news to me," Paul said.

City regulations limit the amount of waste that can be hauled from residential or commercial addresses to four 20-gallon cans at each of the two collections a week. To keep the regulations fresh on the minds of the 600 trash collectors, Kapplin said, supervisors read the regulations and pass out copies every six months.

The department has followed that procedure for the past 18 months. It was initiated, he said, after a Baltimore newspaper published stories about sanitation workers collecting garbage for pay from Korean grocery stores.

"We pass out the regulations to forestall the obvious," Kapplin said. "Of course, in a private home, if you've got a little more than the four cans, we'd probably take them. But if they pick up excessive amounts at commercial establishments, they won't have time to complete their routes and pick up from the regular households."

The three suspended employes -- Robert Ross, Booker Curbean and Kenneth Chester -- all have a hearing Monday before supervisors and department heads, Kapplin said.

"As long as they obey the rules, everything will be okay," he said.