Former Old Court Savings & Loan president Jeffrey Levitt, who yesterday began an 18-month sentence for contempt of court, has had some prior experience with Maryland's prison system.

For a little more than a year in the early 1970s, Levitt, who is a lawyer, served on the state's Inmate Grievance Commission.

He left the post following complaints about his service on the committee by the secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services, state government sources said yesterday.

Levitt was appointed by former governor Marvin Mandel in May 1972 to fill an unexpired term on the commission.

A month later, Mandel named Levitt to a full four-year term on the panel, which adjudicates complaints by prisoners against the prison system.

Although state officials said yesterday that they could find no record of Levitt's resigning the position, he apparently left the part-time post in July 1973, according to his pay record -- a month after then-public safety Secretary Robert Lally wrote to Mandel urging the governor to remove him.

State sources said that Lally's letter questioned whether Levitt had always attended committee meetings on the days when he was paid his $65-a-day salary for serving on the commission.

Lally also complained that Levitt had used his position to collect a $500 legal fee from a law client who was then incarcerated at a state prison facility, the sources said.

Questioned yesterday about his connection to Levitt, Mandel said that he had no memory of the affair.

When told that he had named Levitt to the commission, an astounded Mandel replied: "I did? I've told everybody I don't know the guy."

"That's funny as hell," continued the former governor. "I'm going to have to check, for my own curiosity, who recommended him. Somebody had to recommend him. The name doesn't ring a bell with me. I've been saying to people, 'Who is this guy?' "

Levitt could not be reached for comment.