The Maryland State Ethics Commission has reprimanded Robert I. Bickford, the president of Prince George's Community College, for his involvement in the hiring of his sons by the school, a violation of the college's policy against nepotism.

The commission did not say the sons, Wayne and Mark, should not have been hired, but said Bickford should have removed himself from the hiring process.

Claire Ferguson, chairwoman of the college's board of trustees, said yesterday that the board planned no action against Bickford, who has been president of the 22,000-student community college since 1972. Wayne and Mark Bickford were hired in 1981 and 1982 and are still employed by the college.

"We feel the ethics commission made a mistake," Ferguson said. She said the departments had hired the sons, not Bickford. He "did nothing wrong," she said.

The commission, which enforces the state's Public Ethics Law, did not recommend further sanctions against Bickford, executive director John O'Donnell said.

Bickford acknowledged in a written settlement with the ethics commission that he had approved and signed his sons' contracts. He maintained, however, that he signed his sons' contracts because he thought his administrative responsibilities required him to do so.

The college policy states that employes must not be involved in the hiring of relatives. The state code says that persons employed by a public agency must not "use the prestige of their office for their own gain or that of another."

Wayne Bickford, 30, works for a senior citizens program in the college's community services department. Mark Bickford, 33, teaches physical education and coaches two sports. Both declined to comment.