The District's new human services director, M. Jerome Woods, has been holding marathon meetings with four colleagues he hired as temporary consultants to help him map out changes for the department, which is fraught with mismanagement problems and is the major focus of a city contracts probe.

The four consultants were hired to review public relations policies and assess programs and use of personnel in the department, including filling about 1,000 job openings.

Each of the consultants has a contract with the city and is paid $263 per day, plus a monthly $775 living allowance. The contracts cover periods of about 30 to 90 days of work.

At least one D.C. Council member has raised questions about those contracts. Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), who chairs the Committee on Government Operations, said last week that she intends to look into the personal service contracts to determine why they were not subject to competitive bidding.

Woods said the mayor gave him the green light to hire a transition team. "I told {Mayor Marion Barry} he could not expect me to come to a billion-dollar agency alone. So I have {hired} some trusted advisers whom I've worked with," Woods said.

Those four consultants who are helping Woods plan the department's realignment are Robert L. Little, a former Michigan social services administrator whom Woods has known for years; Jonathan B. (Shawn) Ortiz, who was Woods' public relations spokesman in California; Steven J. Y'Barra, a former California state administrator, and Theodore Carthen, a business associate.

Although Woods, a former California social services director, said he plans to lead the department into greater productivity and efficiency, he and one of his transition team members have been criticized by former employers for lacking management acumen. Several are said to cause discomfort with their personal styles.

Woods, who came to the department in July and must be confirmed by the D.C. Council, had come under occasional criticism when he was director of California's massive social services department from 1975 to 1983.

He was investigated by state legislators for allegedly funneling some department contracts to friends, though he was never charged with any wrongdoing. State officials also questioned some of his personnel decisions and his attempts to install a costly computer system statewide.

When Woods arrived here late in June, he hired Little, who had recently resigned from Michigan's social services department after a lengthy and acrimonious battle with the department's director. Little, the brother of slain black activist Malcolm X, was fired in 1986 from his job as director of support services after being implicated in approving improper payments to a landlord who allegedly submitted fraudulent claims to the department, said Charles Peller, spokesman for the Michigan department.

Little filed a civil service complaint against the department and won an undisclosed monetary settlement. He was reinstated in his job in February, and he then resigned that post, Peller said.

Woods, who has known Little for years, said he hired him because he is "good" and "experienced." Woods said Little did not charge for the first 17 days he worked for the city.

Little, who helped start the Oak Hill detention facility for delinquent youths here in 1968, was described as "a pretty good administrator and a savvy guy," by Edward Mahlin, now deputy superintendent at Oak Hill.

Mahlin, who knew Little in 1968, said the former administrator has been well received by his former colleagues in the Youth Services Administration, where he is reviewing staff and security problems. Woods also has asked Little to write a policy manual for monitoring the millions of dollars DHS spends with outside contractors.

Barry said he was aware of, but unconcerned about, Woods' or Little's past. "I don't go by newspaper clippings," Barry said, adding that he has been pleased with the men's performance thus far.

Aside from predictable jitters about having a new boss, few DHS officials have expressed concern about Little or Woods. However, some city officials have been offended by the brash manner of some of the transition team members.

"My experience {with the consultants} thus far has not been as pleasant as expected," said Audrey Rowe, the former social services commissioner who is now special assistant to Barry on human service issues.

Ortiz spent a month in Washington assessing the department's relationship with the public. Ortiz, who is said to be outspoken, is one of the consultants who has made some staff members uncomfortable. The public relations specialist said after a recent visit to Washington the morale of DHS workers is low partly because they have been "traumatized" by the publicity and political fallout stemming from an 18-month probe into city contracting practices.

"What I found was that the D.C. government is akin to the maturation of a Third World government," Ortiz said, where talent is "misapplied or ignored."

Y'Barra, the former California bureaucrat, lawyers and computer consultant, has been meeting with the heads of all nine departments and three commissions to determine where policy problems lie.

Y'Barra, 39, who wears a large cowboy hat and refers to himself as "the tall Mexican," seems to raise the greatest ire. He has just accepted a permanent position as Woods' executive assistant. According to an employment form Y'Barra filed with the city, he was convicted in 1983 of failing to file an income tax return. He indicated that all obligations were met in 1986.

Y'Barra, who was a California deputy secretary for health and welfare at age 26, was described by a former colleague as "arrogant and flamboyant." He said he is primarily concerned that there are many people in the 6,000-person department who are "talented but lack technical skill." He is recommending more staff training and would like to develop a more efficient system. In addition, he said he was concerned that the department has been trying to function in spite of staff shortages -- there are about 1,000 job openings including positions from social workers to janitors, he said recently.

City Administrator Thomas M. Downs agreed that "some people find that {Y'Barra} has an outrageous style." But Downs said it is simply Y'Barra's way of "getting to the meat" of issues.

Carthen, one of Woods' California business associates, will oversee any reorganization of DHS staff. He also plans to create a new division to ensure that the agency files contain complete and consistent reports on its operation of federally funded programs, Woods said.

Of Carthen, Downs said, "Ted approaches things like a shrink would," by asking people what they think and how they feel.

The pending realignment of agency staff has caused some people to be a bit "uneasy," but others are happy to have an opportunity to talk to top officials about problems in their departments, said Woods' deputy, Marshall.

Robert Washington, mental health commissioner designate, said he is particularly pleased that Woods understands the importance of a smooth transition because St. Elizabeths Hospital is being transferred from the federal government to the city next month. He also said many DHS employes are simply relieved that a permanent director has been hired.

"My overriding sense is one of hope," Washington said.