Just who qualifies as an "eminent person" in the District of Columbia?

While it will be left to the federal authorities and a grand jury to determine whether Mayor Marion Barry's controversial ceremonial fund has ever been used improperly, the D.C. Council is wrestling with standards to apply to the fund in the future.

At a public "roundtable" hearing Tuesday, no one was certain where to draw the line in qualifying someone as an eminent person entitled to be feted by the fund.

"I would interpret it pretty broadly," said George Thomas, the city controller who was brought in last year to straighten out the accounting mess in the mayor's official funds. "Most District taxpayers would consider themselves eminent." Thomas said he relies largely on the mayor's staff to determine how the money will be spent, noting that his job is to account for the money.

"I don't want to deny the eminence of any of our taxpayers either," said Council Chairman David A. Clarke, but Clarke said he thought the law defining how money can be spent should be tightened.

The council is considering permanent legislation authored by council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) that would require closer accounting of the ceremonial fund. Barry has proposed similar legislation on the fund, which until questions were raised about it last year, was spent largely by the mayor's office with little record keeping or outside auditing.

The fund was increased this year from $17,500 to $50,000, which will be split evenly between the mayor and council, although the council has not yet worked out how to apportion the money among its 13 members. Council staff members say that some perks-concious council members could wind up fighting over the fund more than they did the legislation.

Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) complained that council members do not have enough travel funds and indicated the ceremonial pot could help pay for official trips. "How can we do that legislation without giving the appearance that we are just going on a free trip?" Winter asked. "It seems to me the taxpayers would not object . . . . "

On a related issue, the council and mayor have not yet figured out what the city should adopt as its official gift for dignitaries. Now the city has paperweights and plates, but nothing special. Council members traveling to Taiwan earlier this year were embarrassed at a government function at which gifts from other governments were laid out. The council members had only a photograph of the D.C. Council in a frame that fell apart as Clarke handed it over in a ceremony.

The council and mayor approved $46,000 to stock up on whatever official gift is selected.

If readers have suggestions, send them to your favorite council member. The address is: The District Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 20004.More on That Xerox Outing

Several of Barry's top staff members objected when they heard that Xerox was going to pick up the tab for the two-day management retreat in Loudoun County last Friday and Saturday. Some, according to officials, even threatened to pay their own way if the city government did not.

The Washington Post reported successive announcements within 24 hours by the District government that first said use of the facility would be free, then said the city would pay for beverages and food. After media inquiries to Xerox headquarters in New York, city officials said they had been misinformed and that the city would be billed for the entire cost at regular government rates.

Some city officials this week blamed Xerox officials in New York for the confusion, saying out-of-state executives never understood that arrangements with the city had been worked out. Still others, however, said that District officials in charge never made it clear to others exactly how the event would be handled.

Some wryly suggested that the confusion itself was a good textbook case for a "management" retreat. Residency Reverberations

At last week's D.C. Council hearings on the residency law for District government employes, most of the debate was about housing costs, neighborhoods and personal hardships, but shortly before the two-day marathon came to an end, one witness from the Shaw area put her finger on the political questions looming over the issue.

"The real issue behind the residency requirement has nothing to do with the tax base, pride, respect or racism," said Marie de Matons, who said she has lived in the District for 18 years.

"It has to do with maintaining a political base for the mayor . . . . The mayor wants to be sure he keeps in the District the 40,000 citizens {who work for the D.C. government}, plus their friends and relatives," so that he can influence their votes, de Matons said.

Aides to the mayor have denied any such inclinations, and Barry , speaking in favor of lifting Hatch Act restrictions on political activities by government employes, has said he puts no pressure on employes to support his campaigns.

"I don't have to," the mayor said. "They agree with me a lot."

Joslyn N. Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, noted after de Matons' testimony that the late Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, "built his political empire through city employes."

The labor council, whose unions represent about 25,000 D.C. government workers, has backed Barry on most issues, but wants the residency law, in effect since 1980, changed to make residency a preference for a city job.

About 60 percent of D.C. employes now live in the District, a figure that officials expect will rise to 95 percent in the next decade with the retirement of longtime employes who were grandfathered out of the requirement. The city has about 254,000 registered voters, but few elections have drawn even half that many, making the 40,000 city employes and their families a substantial block of potential votes.

"The higher-paid people {among the D.C. employes} are less vulnerable," Williams said, "but there are a lot of employes who might feel they are politically beholden {to city leaders}."Staff writer Lawrence Feinberg contributed to this report.