The GSA is moving ahead with its controversial decision to transfer a group of Senior Executive Service employees out of Washington, despite congressional hearings, a letter of protest signed by several members of Congress and threats of legal action.

Seventeen SES-rank employees were notified last month that they had 30 days to pack their bags and get to their new jobs. It was all part of a reorganization to "streamline management and strengthen GSA's regional operations," according to Carmen, but members of Congress, including House civil service subcommittee chairman Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), saw it a bit differently.

In a letter to Carmen last week, Schroeder and 13 colleagues contended that the changes would not save money, would be costly to morale and were being ordered at the same time non-career appointees were being recruited for jobs in Washington. "This raises serious questions as to whether the proposed reorganization is not a step toward returning to the 'spoils' system," they wrote.

"People have to be suspicious when the ones being moved are the ones in the highest positions in the previous administration," said G. Jerry Shaw, president of the Senior Executive Association, who sees the move as a "test case" for the administration and a precursor to similar wholesale SES transfers across the government.

Two of the targeted executives -- Albert Meisel of the National Archives and Paul Newton of the regional office here -- have since resigned, and several have been granted delays, including a married couple -- Pat Kendall and Dennis Blaeuer. Kendall was ordered to New York, her husband to Philadelphia.

The couple's plight prompted a letter from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) to Office of Personnel Management head Donald Devine. "I believe firmly that this administration's philosophy has been the strengthening of the family unit," Wolf wrote, "not placing additional pressures on it by separating the spouses."

Kendall said yesterday that she is preparing for the move, but plans to keep fighting it. "There are administrative remedies," she said. "There is an appeals process."