A Montgomery County volunteer fire chief who sparked controversy three years ago when he made a racial slur to a black firefighter now has been accused of making an ethnic slur to a Hispanic firefighter.

Germantown Fire Chief Michael May, who is white, is accused of calling a Hispanic firefighter a "{expletive} dumb spic" at the scene of an Oct. 27, 1990, accident.

An officer with the county's Department of Fire and Rescue Services who investigated the allegation said that May made the alleged remark, and recommended that he be suspended or resign.

Because of Montgomery's unusual fire system, which mixes volunteers with career employees, the matter was turned over to the board of the Germantown Volunteer Department. Germantown officials refused comment.

County Executive Neal Potter said the failure of Germantown officials to take strong action against May prompted him to order an investigation by the county's Fire and Rescue Commission. "They are not looking as strong as I would at this . . . . This is a repeat offense, and appears to be a reality, a fact. I think it has to be a serious concern," Potter said yesterday.

May was head of the Hyattstown Fire Department in March 1988 when he called a black firefighter "nigger boy" during a training session. His comment, which he said was a joke, and his initial refusal to heed calls for his resignation led to picketing by the NAACP and caused the county to cut off some of the department's funding.

May eventually resigned and was subsequently elected chief of the Germantown station.

May refused to comment on the new complaint, filed by firefighter Jorge deLeon, a career firefighter for 18 months who is assigned to a Rockville fire station.

DeLeon's complaint alleges that May slurred him as he and other firefighters assigned to a rescue unit were responding to an accident at Route 118 and Waters Landing Drive.

DeLeon's complaint says that May confronted him after there was disagreement over how to transport one of the accident victims to a hospital. May gritted his teeth and made the slur, according to deLeon's complaint.

Lt. Lou Boozer, the department's equal employment officer, wrote in a report after investigating the complaint that no other witness could verify that May made the remark. However, according to Boozer's investigation, two other firefighters -- both white men -- said that deLeon was visibly upset after the alleged incident and that both believed he was telling the truth.

Boozer also interviewed May, according to the report. May denied making the statement, but he admitted that he called deLeon stupid and insulted a bystander.

Boozer made a series of recommendations in his report, including that May be suspended or resign, and write a letter of apology.

In December, May wrote a letter to deLeon, saying that he didn't remember making the remark, but extending "a sincere apology" if he did or said "anything of a racial nature to offend you."