Sen. Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.) was repaid by his campaign committee for more than $850 in flowers he said he gave constituents during his 1974 reelection race even though his accountant testified yesterday he had doubts that the floral gifts were reimbursable.
In addition, Talmadge's office said yesterday the senator was probably also reimbursed more than $2,500 that he claimed he spent for numerous other gifts to constituents which are listed on his federal election records.
Talmadge's accountant, Lawrence W. Earls, refused after yesterday's Senate Ethic Committee hearing to say if he had given an opinion about eligibility for reimbursement for those gifts.
Earls, who has been Talmadge's accountant since 1972, is scheduled to testify again today on the senator's finances before the Senate committee.
On Monday Earls told the committee that in a 1975 telephone conversation with Talmadge's financial secretary, Allyne Tisdale, he discussed possible reimbursements to the senator from campaign funds.
The accountant, who is a tax partner with the national firm of Peat, Marwick and Mitchell, said he advised Tisdale that Talmadge was probably not eligible for repayment for charitable donations he made during the campaign.
Elaborating on that yesterday, Earls said Tisdale crossed the charitable donations off the list of reimbursements due Talmadge from his campaign committee.
Talmadge was reimbursed $26,912 that he claimed he spent out of his own funds during the campaign.The ethics committee is looking into a charge that Talmadge filed false campaign reports with the Secretary of the Senate.
Members of the senator's staff said yesterday that the most recent opinion by the Federal Election Commission on reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses allows broad latitude to the candidate's campaign committee. In 1978, they said, the FEC ruled that a Mississippi congressman who gave Christmas gifts to newsmen could be reimbursed from his campaign fund because the gifts could be considered campaign expenses.
In his testimony yesterday Earls said he learned in September 1977 that Talmadge might have been overpaid by the Senate for office expense claims. But he said he waited nine months to talk to Talmadge about it because the information came from the attorney for Talmadge's ex-wife during the senator's divorce proceeding.
"The attorney for Mrs. Talmadge raised points that I wasn't sure were factual," Earls said. In addition, Talmadge was under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, and Earls said he felt the audit would reveal any overpayments to the senator.
The ethics committee is investigating five charges against Talmadge. The most serious, according to Talmadge's own opening-session assessment, is that he was aware of and profited from a $39,000 secret bank account that included improper Senate reimbursements and unreported campaign contributions. Talmadge has denied the charge. CAPTION: Picture, Sen. Herman E. Talmadge and his accountant, Lawrence W. Earls, await start of Ethics Committee session. By James K. W. Atherton-The Washington Post