COLONIAL BEACH, VA., NOV. 9 -- A petition drive has been started to remove for incompetence every member of the Colonial Beach Town Council, but there is a dispute between old political foes about who is responsible for the effort.

Mayor Wayne DiRosario denies any connection with the petition drive and says it is the work of Vincent Mullin, who intends to run again for mayor in next May's election. "He knows I'd be a hard candidate to beat, so he has to create some controversy to get the people upset," DiRosario said.

But Mullin, who lost to DiRosario in May 1986 by 66 votes, says he researched election law and had the petition written at DiRosario's request.

"I'm just going to say that if he denies" beginning the drive, "he is a colossal prevaricator," Mullin said. "I've been through these things before with Wayne. He has two answers to every question."

The petition alleges that the six members of the Town Council are "incompetent, neglectful of their duties and have misused their offices" and should be removed by Westmoreland County Circuit Judge Dixon L. Foster.

Under election law, the petition must bear the names of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the latest Town Council election. That number was 1,023, so the petition needs 102 names.

Mullin says DiRosario started the petition drive as an act of revenge against the council's weakening of the mayor's powers to administer town business in the absence of a town manager.

The council accepted the resignation of Town Manager Wayne Kohlwes in September after a rocky relationship, then trimmed the mayor's powers at a subsequent meeting.

Mullin says he supports the allegations listed on the petition, and signed one himself. But he maintains that if he were behind the petition, DiRosario "would head the list" of local officeholders who should be removed.

DiRosario, likewise, shows some sympathy for the petition, but argues that he did not ask Mullin to develop it.

"If it was my petition, I could have come up with better justifications for removing them," he said of the six council members.

Because of Mullin's record as a council critic and his plans to seek the mayorship again, DiRosario says it is evident Mullin began the petition campaign.

"I think it's obvious whose petition it is," he said.

Mary Artis-Flowers, a resident angered by the council's stand with Kohlwes, said she doesn't care if the petition drive is successful or not.

"I think the people will correct the situation in May when they vote," she said.