An office supply firm under investigation by the General Services Administration asked the U.S. District Court here yesterday to prevent GSA from canceling a $9 million contract to buy filing cabinets.

A suit filed by Art Metal Inc. charges that GSA illegally canceled the contract on Aug. 24 "within a few hours" after having notified the firm that it was the low bidder. The suit says the cancellation was ordered by GSA Administrator Jay Solomon, and was part of an effort to disqualify Art Metal from obtaining contracts from GSA.

The suit also alleges that GSA officials revealed records supplied by Art Metal of its trade secrets and confidential commercial and financial information to reporters from The Washington Post and The Washington Star.

GSA is investigating Art Metal for allegedly supplying faulty equipment to the government. Last year, for example, the Army complained that 11 of 20 firing cabinets supplied by Art Metal had come with locks that stuck, drawers that did not open properly and finishes that were peeling, exposing rusting metal underneath.

According to the suit, more than 80 percent of Art Metal's business is with GSA and its disqualification would "irreparably" damage the firm. If GSA is not barred by the court from disqualifying Art Metal, the suit said, "Art Metal is likely to be put out of business."

A hearing on the firm's motion for an injunction against GSA is scheduled for today before U.S. District Court Judge Harold H. Greene.