Mark McCloy, a Commerce Department bureaucrat, took quick action after a secretary filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. He called the woman, apologized, and, FBI officials say, offered her $1,000 to put it all behind them.

That overture led to his arrest.

Now McCloy's troubles are not limited to the Equal Employment Opportunity complaint. Yesterday he appeared in U.S. District Court, accused of "attempting to influence the testimony of a witness in an official proceeding." Prosecutors viewed his behavior as an attempt to pay the secretary for lying--they say he asked her to claim the complaint was a mistake. The offense carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, authorities said.

McCloy's title is almost as long as the criminal complaint: He is director of the information technology management office of the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, which is a section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Commerce Department. His supervisors put him on administrative leave after his arrest Wednesday.

McCloy, 55, of Chester, Md., has denied any wrongdoing, according to his attorney, G. Allen Dale. "Nothing that Mr. McCloy did was ever intended to violate the law, and we look forward to his day in court," Dale said.

According to the arrest affidavit, the chain of events began July 20 when a secretary filed the complaint that launched a sexual harassment investigation. The next day, McCloy telephoned the secretary, said he "wanted to apologize for all that had happened," and offered to "give her anything she wanted or do anything she wanted if she would drop the case," the affidavit said.

Instead of taking McCloy up on the offer, the secretary alerted the FBI and the Commerce Department's inspector general's office. Concerned about the possibility of witness tampering, authorities then had the woman call McCloy.

The FBI recorded a telephone conversation in which he offered her $1,000, the arrest affidavit said. During the call, McCloy suggested that they "make a deal," the affidavit said, offering $1,000 and suggesting that she advise an EEO counselor that "it had all been a misunderstanding and we've got it solved."

McCloy was arrested when he made the $1,000 payment. After spending Wednesday night in jail, he was released yesterday on personal recognizance. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson ordered him to return to court Aug. 13 for a preliminary hearing and to stay away from the secretary.

The court papers provide no details about the allegations in the woman's harassment complaint. Diane Seltzer, a lawyer who specializes in cases involving workplace discrimination, said she was puzzled by the FBI's action.

"If his only goal was to just get it resolved and put it behind him, perhaps it could have been done more artfully," she said, adding that McCloy should have hired an attorney to conduct any settlement negotiations. "I can't believe the FBI doesn't have better things to do. There's a 10 Most Wanted list. I can't imagine this guy could be No. 11."