The Howard County Personnel Board postponed action last night on a proposal to scrap two-year promotion lists for county police officers and firefighters in an effort to increase advancement opportunities for women and minorities, recommending negotiations with employes angered by the plan.

The board, after a 45-minute discussion, refused to endorse Personnel Administrator Janet Haddad's proposal to throw out two-year promotion lists for police sergeants and lieutenants and firefighters and institute annual eligibility lists.

The board followed the recommendation of Chairman Cecil G. Christian Jr., who urged Haddad to hammer out a compromise plan with police officers, firefighters and their unions. The board will consider the revamped proposal at its Jan. 19 meeting.

The police union's president, David Etheridge, said after the meeting that he expected little progress in the proposed negotiations.

"The county administration will not change their position," Etheridge said. "They don't understand the ramifications of their proposal."

Etheridge said the change would be a "slap in the face" to the 34 police officers who worked hard to pass the sergeant's exam in July and were told that their names would be on an eligibility list for two years. When vacancies occur, the police department promotes officers based on how well they scored on the exam.

Last month, Haddad proposed switching to one-year eligibility lists to give women and minorities a better chance at promotions by giving them more frequent chances to take the test. Of the 34 candidates now on the list, 33 are white men and one is a white woman. No minority officer scored high enough to be promoted in the next two years.

The board had been expected last night to make a nonbinding recommendation to the County Council on Haddad's proposal. The council must approve any change.

Board member Dennis W. Vittotoe voiced strong opposition to the county administration's plan, which he said may violate the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

"Affirmative action cannot override equal opportunity for all," Vittotoe said.

Vice Chairman Michael P. Hickey offered a compromise plan to keep the current two-year promotion list but hold a supplemental exam next year that would be merged with the current two-year eligibility list. That combined list would be valid until 1989, when the county would implement annual promotion tests.

Of the 222 officers on the Howard police force, two are two black male sergeants, two are while female sergeants and one is a black male lieutenant. The county's population is about 14 percent black.

In the county fire service, of the 124 paid positions, there are 10 black male firefighters, five white female firefighters and one white female lieutenant. There are no black women in the paid fire service.