Two former Alexandria city officials have filed a sexual discrimination suit in U.S. District Court against the city and five former city officials in a dispute that began in 1983.

Former city planner Patricia Enneking and former budget analyst Elizabeth McKenna filed a complaint with the city in 1983, alleging that former planning director Engin Artemal sexually harassed them at a city conference in Williamsburg.

In 1985, they filed another complaint saying city officials did not investigate their charges properly.

In 1986, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe the allegation of sexual harassment.

The suit also alleges that the two women's promotions and salaries were affected by sexual discrimination.

The EEOC is still investigating those allegations, according to Kerry Alan Scanlon, one of three lawyers representing the women.

The suit charges that five former city officials "regularly and continuously engaged in gender-based discrimination in employment, and . . . attempted to thwart an investigation and to cover up their unlawful conduct."

Named in the suit are Artemal, former city manager Douglas Harman, former human rights administrator Stephen Levinson,, former personnel director Robert Burnett and former deputy city manager Bradford Hammer.

The five men could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mayor James P. Moran Jr. said, "It is not necessarily accidental that none of the city employes are any longer under the employ of the city .. . . The city is sympathetic and determined that this issue be resolved fairly and properly."

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from the defendants.