The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 7 to 2 yesterday to divest the county of all its holdings in companies that do business in South Africa and to prohibit future investments in such firms.

The county's chief financial officer said divestiture would have "virtually no impact" on the county's investment portfolio, an assessment shared by the executive director to the county's three employee retirement boards. School officials were not present at the meeting, but had previously come to the same conclusion.

In a meeting marked by sharp philosophical and political clashes between the supervisors, the board also approved holding a public hearing next month on seven potential bond referendums for the November ballot totaling almost $850 million. Those referendums will be pared down in number and size after public comment and likely will total about $325 million.

In the wake of a circuit court judge's ruling last week that the board had held illegal, closed-door meetings four times last year, the supervisors did not convene a scheduled executive session yesterday to discuss legal matters.

Most supervisors, arguing that they had not violated open meeting provisions in the state Freedom of Information Act, said they were confused by the judge's ruling and wanted to wait until he issued a written order. That order could come within two weeks, County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert told the board.

The board's two Republicans, Thomas M. Davis III (Mason) and Elaine N. McConnell (Springfield), were the only members to vote against divestiture, arguing the board should not involve itself in foreign affairs.

In addition, Davis said the move would "send the wrong signal" to the South African government at a time when it is moving toward revision of its apartheid policy, and McConnell said the county should not pull its support from companies that provide jobs for that country's poor.

The issue was spearheaded by Supervisor Kate Hanley (D-Providence), who said the proposal was modeled after an executive order issued May 15 by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder directing all state agencies and institutions to allow no further investments and sell all interests in companies that have "substantive" ties to South Africa. Wilder has appointed a committee to recommend guidelines for what constitutes a "substantive" interest.

Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Annandale) said she was concerned by that issue, noting, "I'd be more comfortable if we were voting on this after we know what guidelines {we} were trying to adhere to." When it became clear, however, the board was not going to delay a vote, Bulova persuaded her colleagues to exempt companies that manufacture "humanitarian" products or that have signed a statement of principles advancing racial equality.

The principles, formerly known as the Sullivan Principles, outline a code of conduct for companies doing business in South Africa and stipulate that the firms will, for instance, promote equal pay for equal work and strive to eliminate apartheid laws. The Rev. Leon Wade Sullivan, who wrote the principles, repudiated them three years ago, saying they had failed to bring about meaningful change.

Bulova said the consulting firm of Arthur D. Little ranks companies according to progress they have made in complying with the principles. Her amendment allows the county to continue doing business only with those companies that have the highest ranking.

"My biggest interest was not penalizing companies giving opportunities to blacks in South Africa that they would not otherwise have," she said after the meeting.

James P. McDonald, deputy county executive for management and budget, said that because of laws restricting how the county can invest its money, only a few short-term investments would be affected.

The biggest impact of divestiture would be on the county and School Board retirement funds. About $42 million, or 5 percent, of the $830 million invested by the county's three retirement funds and $37 million (7.6 percent) of the $490 million invested by the school system's retirement fund would be affected.

The board also was sharply divided over what bond questions to put before the voters this fall. In the end, the supervisors agree to send an $849 million package to a July 23 public hearing and delay making tough and unpopular decisions until after receiving public comment.

One of the key problems is uncertainty over a proposal to sell $330 million in revenue bonds to complete the Fairfax County Parkway, a 35-mile road connecting Route 1 in the southeastern part of the county with Route 7 in the northwest. It is the county's number one transportation priority.

A circuit court judge is reconsidering his previous ruling that the revenue bond financing scheme is legal, and the board is therefore considering paying for part of the parkway with voter-approved bonds.

The bond questions approved for public hearing include $169 million for public schools; up to $455 million for transportation (including as much as $330 million for the parkway); up to $30 million for human service projects; up to $112 million for public safety and maintenance facilities; up to $52.5 million for housing; up to $20 million for storm drains; and up to $10 million for county trails.