Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney Helen F. Fahey has determined that Sheriff James A. Gondles Jr. did not violate Virginia conflict-of-interest laws when he purchased athletic clothes for inmates from a store owned by his father-in-law.

"The only restriction {of the law} would cover doing business with a company that a member of the immediate household has an interest in," said Fahey. "Neither {Gondles} nor his wife has any interest in the company. It is not a violation of the law."

From 1984 to 1986, the sheriff's office purchased about $3,000 worth of clothing from a Westchester County, N.Y., store owned by Stanley B. Levine, Gondles' father-in-law. The money for the purchases came from a "canteen" account that is used to buy goods that are then offered for sale to inmates. Funds from sales go back into the canteen account.

Fahey's office investigated the alleged violations at Gondles' request in response to conflict-of-interest allegations made by Ronald B. Hager. Hager resigned as Gondles' chief deputy in March to run for sheriff against his former boss.

The allegations come in the midst of a bitter campaign battle between Gondles, a Democrat, and Hager, an independent backed by county Republicans.

"It doesn't surprise me that Helen Fahey said that {Gondles} didn't violate any statute," said Hager, who had also criticized a $250 contribution from Levine to Gondles' campaign. "I do note that she is on Jim Gondles' campaign staff. I'm not saying that there is anything fishy."

Gondles said he was pleased with the ruling, adding that he never thought the purchases constituted a conflict of interest. He said that the purchases were Hager's idea and were done for convenience.

Hager said he knew about the purchases while he worked under Gondles but denied that he suggested dealing with Levine's store.

Gondles said that the sheriff's office ceased ordering clothing from his father-in-law's store because he does not want to subject his family to further publicity.

As to the contribution from Levine, Gondles said that his father-in-law gave him money because "his daughter is married to me."