All Virginia Beach needs is another controversy over its Labor Day weekend festivities, which last year broke out into racial violence.

The latest, ironically enough, stemmed from efforts to get out a message of good feeling and positive public relations about the three-day holiday.

City officials were not pleased to learn from a story in the Virginian-Pilot on Tuesday that the New York-based public relations firm hired to do national media had contacted militant Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan about getting involved in the campaign.

After being summoned to the office of Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf, the public relations firm, Manning Selvage & Lee, submitted its resignation from the campaign.

"Some initial contacts with {Farrakhan's} office were blown out of proportion by the local media. It created a political problem" for city officials, said Joseph Gleason, managing director of the Washington office of the firm. "They didn't need another controversy to get in the way."

Gleason said Farrakhan is scheduled to be in the area the week before the Labor Day weekend and that the firm invited him to give a "peaceful message" as part of his visit. The firm offered to audio tape or videotape the message but did not have a plan on just how it would be used, Gleason added.

City officials portrayed the problem as a "breakdown in communication."

"The fact that the city was not kept fully informed about the activities of Manning Selvage & Lee has damaged our confidence in their ability to help us as Labor Day approaches," Oberndorf said in a statement.

The mayor could not be reached for further comment, and a spokeswoman for the city said she could not say whether Farrakhan would be welcome to participate.

Gleason said that his firm did inform a planning committee created for this year's festivities about its intentions before contacting Farrakhan's staff, but neither the mayor nor the city manager were directly informed. Both chairmen of that committee were out of town and unreachable yesterday, according to their offices.

Several black leaders, including Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and college presidents, have been contacted about making pre-holiday statements aimed at keeping the weekend peaceful, Gleason said.

Attempts to obtain comment from Farrakhan's office were unsuccessful.