The race for Fairfax County sheriff, for years a quiet affair, has turned into a nasty showdown this year, with the acting sheriff being accused of failing to properly discipline a deputy who drew a gun on another deputy, while his challenger has been accused of being fired from his job as a prison warden in Maryland.

Democrat Richard Singleton accused Acting Sheriff Carl Peed of mismanagement for failing to fire a deputy who pointed a loaded revolver at a fellow deputy's head and cocked the trigger.

Peed, a Republican, yesterday accused Singleton of misrepresenting himself by saying that he resigned as warden of the Maryland House of Correction at Jessup. "In our debates, he's consistently denied being terminated," Peed said.

Singleton, who has been campaigning on his experience in the military and his most recent experience as warden of the Maryland House of Correction, was terminated in an April 30 letter from Maryland's acting commissioner of correction, Elmanus Herndon. The firing was effective May 14, according to the letter.

In a signed notation, Singleton acknowledged receiving the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by The Washington Post. The next day, he wrote a separate letter to Herndon saying he was resigning, adding, "This will provide me the opportunity to devote full time to my candidacy as sheriff of Fairfax County, Virginia."

During the campaign, Singleton has touted his role at Jessup, saying he turned the medium-security prison around during his 14-month tenure. Singleton told voters that he resigned as warden to run for sheriff.

On Thursday, Singleton denied that he was fired. "I was not terminated. I resigned. I don't know about a letter of termination," he said.

On Friday, after a reporter read Singleton a copy of the termination letter, he said he had not remembered it in the original conversation. He said, "As a result of that {letter}, I submitted my resignation."

Singleton received the termination letter after failing to obey orders to remove a corrections officer from an auditing job that she was not eligible to perform, and for continuing, against orders, to use corrections officers in picking up trash on prison grounds.

Singleton said he took over a facility with serious problems and had to change procedures to correct them. "I was caught in a Catch-22. My boss, Mr. Herndon, objected to me using this person {in the auditing job}, yet I was given the order to pass the inspection."

As for ordering officers to pick up trash, Singleton said it was their duty to assume a post that was clean, and if officers accepted the post in a bad condition they would have to clean it up.

Singleton has accused Peed of mismanagement for allowing a deputy to remain in the department after the deputy pointed a loaded revolver at another deputy.

Deputy Bernie Pfister Jr. was suspended without pay for less than a week, sources said, after he pulled his revolver, pointed it at Deputy Marvin Johnston's head and pulled the hammer while the two deputies were standing in an employee parking lot at the Fairfax jail.

Peed confirmed the incident and said Pfister was suspended "for a period of time." Pfister is back on the job.

Singleton and some deputies opposing Peed's election said that his handling of the incident was inadequate and that they thought Pfister should have been fired. They said the incident shows a lack of leadership by Peed.

Peed said the incident was "appropriately resolved."

"The guy mishandled his weapon," Peed said. "He was playing around . . . . He handled it in a completely inappropriate manner, and he apologized.

"Why should he have been fired?" Peed said. "We put a lot of money into training people. The purpose of discipline is to correct behavior."

Janice Spector, a spokeswoman for Singleton, said the handling of the incident "shows a sheriff's office not in control of its employees."