Two hundred or so years ago, Dumfries was a bustling tobacco port. That is, until the harbor silted in. Today the place is best known as a sleepy little town on U.S. 1, with a penchant for civic scandal.

In the latest incident, Dumfries Mayor Samuel Bauckman, 65, was arrested yesterday on charges of falsifying zoning records for a developer friend, allowing him to skirt government regulations.

The indictment comes weeks before a mayoral election in the town of 4,300 where council members often have squabbled publicly, and where three years ago the 10-member police force was so inept that state officials ordered officers off the streets for retraining.

Bauckman has been charged with a felony count of fraud and two misdemeanor counts of filing a false entry on a public document and malfeasance. He could be sentenced to 12 years in prison, fined $105,000 and removed from office if convicted. The mayor declined to comment on the charges, and his attorney, John Leino, did not return phone messages yesterday.

Bauckman, who has been the mayor of Dumfries for four years, was investigated by Beverly Haney, an assistant commonwealth's attorney from Stafford County who was appointed as special prosecutor after Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert recused himself.

Dumfries' little one-story town hall, just north of the Quantico Marine Base, is no stranger to political contretemps. In 1990, half of the town's employees resigned during a clash between the town manager and the Town Council over hiring and firing.

And by yesterday afternoon, town hall was abuzz with calls from council members that Bauckman resign and withdraw from the mayor's race. "I'm ashamed it had to come to this, but he's responsible for his own actions," said Council member Edward D. Graham. "If he were to ask my opinion, yes, I would tell him to resign."

Bauckman is charged with changing the date and signing his name to a property plat that gave Dumfries resident Herb Campbell permission to subdivide his land into three parcels, Haney said.

Campbell, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, originally applied for and received the rezoning approval in 1989, but was unable to get financing and did nothing about it, according to Haney. In June 1992, Campbell decided to resurrect his project, so he approached Bauckman, the indictment says. A town ordinance required that Campbell begin the entire zoning process anew, but, according to the indictment, Bauckman signed Campbell's zoning application and gave it a fictitious date.

Bauckman's alleged actions enabled Campbell to go ahead with his project without having to seek town approval. Campbell, who is not charged in the case, has since reapplied and received approval.