Dr. Carolyn Robertson Payton, the first woman director and first black director of the Peace Corps, refused yesterday to quit her post despite orders from her agency boss to submit her resignation.
Instead, Payton strongly implied that she would quit only at the request of President Carter, who last year named her director of the overseas volunteer assistance organization.
Payton's refusal to quit puts Carter on the spot - especially at a time when he is trying to mend fences with the nation's black leadership.
A spokeswoman for Payton yesterday confirmed reports that her resignation has been requested by Sam Brown, director of ACTION, the agency that administers the Peace Corps, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and other volunteer service programs.
However, Ruth Saxe, the spokeswoman and Payton's deputy director, said:
"Dr. Carolyn Payton is an appointee of the president who has been confirmed by the Senate. She assumes that if the president is dissatisfied with her, he will ask her to resign."
Brown, reached at home, declined to talk to The Washington Post. But ACTION spokeswoman Carol Honsa later said that Payton's resignation was expected to be on Brown's desk sometime today.
"She told him Wednesday that she would resign and that she would be submitting her letter of resignations," Honsa said.
"The agency is still expecting her letter of resignation Friday," Honsa said.
While House officials declined to comment, and instead referred all inquiries to ACTION.
The Post reported yesterday that Payton abruptly quit her post Wednesday because of what administration sources said were "policy difference," between Payton and Brown over how to run the Peace Corps.
Payton, in a statement issued through Saxe, said yesterday that report was in error.
"Contrary to published reports, I have not resigned as director of the Peace Corps, nor do I wish to resign." she said.
She added: I care too much about the Peace Corps to abandon my responsibilities. It is true than Sam Brown has differences with me over the direction that the Peace Corps should take which have not been resolved.
"I was appointed to this position one year ago by the president and I have had no indication that he is unhappy with my direction of the Peace Corps."
Randall Robinson, executive director of Transafrica, a Washington-based lobbying group on U.S. policy in Africa and the Caribbean, bitterly attacked on Wednesday to request permission from Carter to dismiss Payton.
"It was a quiet dismissal just before Thanksgiving There was no discussion at all between Dr. Paton and President Carter. We consider that a gross lack of courtesy on the administration's part."
Payton, a psychologist and former director of the Howard University Counseling Service, joined the Peace Corps in 1965. She had served as director of its operations in the east Caribbean before becoming director.