William Amonett, the former chairman of the Prince George's County Council, had been out of office only a matter of weeks in 1986 before the job offers came rolling in.

First, the local Park and Planning Commission hired him to work part time as an adviser on land acquisitions at $45,000 per year, $10,000 more than he made as a full-time council member.

Then private clients involved in zoning and land negotiations with the county hired Amonett. One client, the Marriott Corp., paid him an estimated $10,000 to make introductions to county officials and mobilize community support for a controversial project.

Amonett's profitable transition from public to private life shows how closely politics and development can become intertwined. In Prince George's County, where developable land is still available within an easy commute of Washington, developers and their money have become increasingly important -- and influential -- players in the political process.

Bill Amonett, certified appraiser, Democratic political heavyweight, friend of the powerful, can often be found at the center of development fights.

In recent months, several county land transactions in which Amonett was involved -- either as a supporter on the County Council or as a private appraiser -- came under scrutiny by a Prince George's County grand jury. In one transaction, the grand jury examined the county's swap of a commercial site in Fort Washington for a piece of property in the Route 301 median in Bowie that Amonett had appraised. The grand jury returned no indictments, but in March it issued a report criticizing the county for conducting land transactions, which, it said, gave an appearance of impropriety.

Some grand jury members said they were concerned when they discovered that Amonett was involved in that transaction, as well as another one that included properties the county purchased from former Maryland secretary of state Fred L. Wineland, one of Amonett's closest friends.

One grand jury member, Paul Emmons, described the transactions as the "good old boys taking care of their own."

Amonett's dual roles as consultant to private developers and the park and planning commission, while not illegal, have been criticized by citizen groups and some council members since his retirement from the council in December 1986 after 12 years, including four years as its chairman.

Amonett said he has been able to wear two hats "without a conflict or even an appearance of conflict of interest."

"I'm one of the many ex-councilmen out there trying to earn a living. Once you're off the council, you're nothing but a has-been," he said.

Active for years in real estate at the county's southern end as an appraiser and agent, Amonett, 59, established a reputation on the County Council as the principal architect of changes in county zoning law, proposing so many modifications that County Executive Parris N. Glendening once joked that Amonett wrote the "Zoning Attorneys' Full Employment Act." After Amonett retired from the council, his friend, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, appointed him to an unpaid slot on the State Planning Board, where he advises planners on land use matters.

In Prince George's, residents who came up against Amonett, who was acting as a consultant in the Marriott zoning case, accused him of conflicts of interest and improper communications with county officials in complaints made in 1988 to county officials and the State Ethics Commission.

"We just couldn't believe that he could be representing a company that needed approvals from the county at the same time that he was working for {the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning} commission. It just seemed so wrong," said Bart Cox, a Fort Washington landowner who filed suit to try to stop Marriott's proposed Falcon's Landing project.

The Park and Planning Commission, which hired Amonett a month after he left office for a five-year consulting job, has defended Amonett's hiring, saying his employment was based on professional qualifications and had nothing to do with his former influential role on the council. His contract calls for him to prepare leases and negotiate contracts with property owners and to perform and order appraisals on property the commission wants to buy.

Council member Floyd E. Wilson, an outspoken opponent of Amonett's hiring, said the position represents "an obvious conflict. As the chairman of the council, you had him sitting there telling parks and planning officials what to do. They worked for him. Now, you have him working for them and playing an influential role in the commission's business. And to top it off, he's making more than we're making sitting on this council and taking all the heat."

Although the commission operates with great fiscal autonomy, the County Council approves its budgets and has final approval over most land use decisions made by the planning agency. Commission members are appointed by the county executive with the council's approval.

Under its 1982 ethics law, the county has no revolving-door policy to restrict the employment or lobbying activities of former council members. Both the county and the Park and Planning Commission say their ethics guidelines do not apply to consultants.

A review of county records shows Amonett's involvement in a variety of land transactions while he sat as a council member and afterward, while serving as a private consultant and adviser to the county.In 1987, Amonett was hired as a private consultant to Marriott as the company embarked on a controversial plan to build a multi-story retirement community for Air Force officers on the banks of the Potomac River near the Tantallon residential area. The project, which ran into early citizen opposition, was subject to initial review by the County Planning Board and required a special zoning exception from the County Council.

Amonett said he was hired to introduce Marriott to citizen groups in the area he had once represented but said he could not remember whether the job included contacts with council members. Michael Giacopeli, Marriott vice president for development, estimated the company paid Amonett consulting fees of $10,000 for eight or nine months of employment.

Opponents of the 88-acre project say Amonett showed up at a citizen meeting with newly elected council member F. Kirwan Wineland, whose presence was seen as an early endorsement of the project. Wineland, Fred Wineland's son, eventually voted for the zoning exception for the project, despite what he described as intense citizen pressure to abstain from the matter. His father had announced his intention to move into the project once it was completed.

Kirwan Wineland once served as Amonett's council aide and was his chosen heir to a County Council seat. After his resignation, Amonett transferred $37,000 from his campaign fund to support Kirwan Wineland's initial bid for the council in 1986.

Critics of the project also criticized Amonett's contacts with the technical staff of the County Planning Board, a division of the Parks and Planning Commission, where he works. They also complained that it was improper for Amonett to contact a zoning hearing examiner on Marriott's behalf at the time the case was under review.

Attorneys Patricia Kaufman and Phyllis Oetgen complained to John Rhoades, chairman of the Planning Board, about Amonett's role in July 1988, and two other residents, John and Karen Poore, wrote to the State Ethics Commission on behalf of opponents.

The Ethics Commission did not act on the matter because the Parks and Planning Commission does not fall under its rules, officials say. Rhoades wrote the project's opponents that Amonett's work posed no conflict with the commission's guidelines.

Amonett said in an interview that he talked informally with the zoning examiner and introduced the Marriott Corp. to the planning division's staff. "There was nothing onerous about this," he said. "I'm a private citizen now, and I have a right to earn a living." While holding his county consulting job, Amonett also worked as a private appraiser for developer Robert Douglas Jr. Douglas, who had an option to buy land in the Route 301 median near Bowie, filed suit against the county for banning commercial development there. He went to Amonett for an appraisal of the land in April 1988 that he could use as a basis for negotiations with the county.

Amonett's appraisal, one of three secured by Douglas, set the value of the median land at $1.7 million.

Relying partly on Amonett's appraisal, Douglas persuaded the county to trade his three-acre median property for a 12.9-acre Fort Washington parcel owned by the Park and Planning Commission. The commission, which had recently appraised its own property at $3.2 million, purchased the site in 1985 from Fred Wineland -- a transaction Amonett said he heartily supported while he was on the council.

Amonett said he sees no conflict in his work for Douglas on a matter that required commission approval. He said he played no role in reviewing the commission's appraisals of its own property or in setting the terms of the Douglas land swap.

While sitting on the council, Amonett supported a plan to purchase an abandoned Fort Washington drive-in owned by Fred Wineland for use as a commuter parking lot. The purchase, which was completed after Amonett resigned from the council, came under grand jury scrutiny after residents complained that the county paid almost $100,000 an acre for land when suitable property was available nearby for as little as $5,000 an acre.

In an interview, Amonett said he supported the proposal because of frequent complaints from his constituents about insufficient parking facilities near the heavily traveled Indian Head Highway. He said the Wineland site, which sits behind a shopping mall on Swan Creek Road, was the only suitable land available and fit the county's plans for future road improvements in the area.

Amonett said Fred Wineland's ownership of the land was not a factor in his backing of the purchase. "I like him and he likes me, but I'm not married to him," he said. Staff researcher Bridget Roeber contributed to this report.