A headline in yesterday's Post stated erroneously that the Department of Energy sent an undercover operative to a community group meeting. Although such a step was discussed, it was not taken, and the person who went was fully identified as a department representative.

A Department of Energy official says she was told to sendan undercover "operative" to take notes at an activist community group meeting in Denver recently and was transferred from her job when she protested.

Tina Hobson, DOE consumeraffairs officer, said the order came from Armand C. (Rock) Reyser, special assistant and consultant to Energy SecretaryJames C. Edwards. Reyser said Hobson misunderstood his attempt to help her solve a personnel problem and that he had never suggested anything improper.

Hobson, who eventually attended the Denver meeting, was transferred temporarily last week to DOE's solar and conservation office. "I can't sayit was retribution, but it stands to reason that I didn't make myself very popular," she said.

Reyser summoned Hobson and a staff member on Jan. 26 to discuss an upcoming meeting of the National People's Action Council, which Reyser said had been criticized as using federal funds to organize protests against federal policies. He asked her to withdraw DOE backing from the group.

"I said we could withdraw cosponsorship of the meetings but had been committed by [former energy secretary Charles] Duncan to send people to them," Hobson related. "At that point Reyser said, 'No, we will not send anyone, we will send an operative.'"

She said she asked him what he meant, "and he said, 'Well, these are public meetings, aren't they? A DOE person can go dressed in jeans and a down jacket, or that's probably a little fancy. Have them wear a flannel shirt.'"

Reyser denied he used the word "operative." He said Hobson had complained that her staff members were shouted at and abused at these public meetings. "I said that since the purpose of these meetings was to get feedback, perhaps it might be better to send people in andnot identify them as DOE personnel. She really didn't takeexception to that at that point," Reyser said.

He said he told Hobson that people she sent to the meetings should bedressed appropriately to avoid offending anyone. "I told her you just didn't send in people in three-piece suits and mink coats and down jackets," he said. "The idea was that they should be sensitive."

The two then discussed the group. Hobson said she told Reyser it consisted mainly of poor people, many of them elderly, and was a responsible organization. Asked what its interests were, "I said quality control in weatherization programs, and he said, 'Oh, that's our welfare program.' When I said they were concerned about nuclearenergy, he said they must be a front organization. I couldn't believe it," Hobson said.

Reyser said he did not recall details of that discussion.

Hobson said she called SanFrancisco attorney James Atkin, a deputy director of President Reagan's energy transition team, who relayed the messageto Ben Rusche, another Edwards associate from South Carolina who heads the South Carolina Research Institute and is under consideration for several top administration jobs.

Rusche called Reyser, who said he was "really rocked by that call," and arranged a conference call between himself, Reyser and Hobson.

All three agree that Hobson then reiterated her charges and that Reyser said he had been misunderstood. Rusche said yesterday he thought the whole thing was "an unfortunate miscommunication."

Reyser's responses in the telephone call "made it clear that if he had said that he had changed his mind, or he hadn't said it," Rusche added. "I don't believe it was his intent to suggest a course of action that would have been surreptitious or otherwise inappropriate," Rusche said.

In the end, Hobson said, she went to the Feb. 14 meeting in Denver fully identified as representing DOE. Other DOE officials attended subsequent meetings in Iowa and Vermont and will be present at future gatherings, she said.

Reyser said he had severed connections with Hobson's office at her request and had nothing to do with her transfer.