William A. Clinkscales Jr., the General Services Administration official credited with helping to start investigations that had led to about 80 indictments of GSA employes and contractors, was demoted yesterday by the GSA's new administrator.

Rowland G. Freeman III, who took over from Jay Solomon as GSA administrator last summer, said yesterday that he had named Clinkscales deputy to the chief of the GSA office that deals with storing classified documents.

Freeman said he transferred Clinkscales because it would serve the "needs" of GSA and because he had been requested to do so by Clinkscales' new boss, GSA Inspector General Kurt W. Muellenberg.

Clinkscales said he would have no immediate comment.

Freeman, a former Navy admiral, and Muellenberg, a former Justice Department prosecutor, have questioned the seriousness of the scandal involving corruption at GSA. Muellenberg has been publicly criticiezed by Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs' federal spending practices subcommittee, for what Chiles described as his failure to develop any substantial cases since coming to GSA last year.

Freeman said he does not consider the transfer of Clinkscales to be a demotion. "It's all in the eyes of the beholder," Freeman said, noting that Clinkscales would continue to make the same salary of $50,112 a year.

"The job is of equal responsibility," Freeman said.

Clinkscales, 52, had supervised about 150 employes in his job as director of investigations and assistant inspector general. His new job would make him a deputy in an office with 11 employes.

Daniel M. Clements, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore who supervised about 50 GSA indictments with Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Trimble, said yesterday, "Clinkscales helped start the GSA investigations in Baltimore and was a substantial factor in their success."

Clinkscales is also credited with turning over most of the cases that resulted in indictments in a paralled investigation into CSA corruption by the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington.

Muellenberg informed Clinkscales late last year that he intended to transfer him because they had not developed a "professional relationship." This followed Clinkscales' written complaint to Muellenberg that he was not receiving instructions from Muellenberg on what was expected of him.

Freeman first offered Clinkscales a job as chief of the Information Security Oversight Office, which works with government agencies to make sure classified documents are properly stored. When Clinkscales turned down that job, Freeman named him deputy to the chief of the same office. In the deputy job, Clinkscales will make the same salary as the chief of the office.

Last month, Howard B. Davia, chief of audits at GSA, complained in a letter to Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (Ind-Va.) that his own job might be in jeopardy.

Davia, who also reports to Muellenberg and produced audits that revealed major areas of abuse at GSA, told Byrd, as his senator, that the independence of his office could be in jeopardy.

Muellenberg has excused amazement that Davia would make such a charge.