The Merit Systems Protection Board has been asked to intervene on behalf of a government auditor who claims he is being punished for telling reporters about more than $1 million of questionable expenses reportedly billed to the government by a defense contractor.

K. William O'Connor, special counsel to the board, asked for a temporary stay yesterday to stop the Defense Department from transferring auditor George R. Spanton from his West Palm Beach, Fla., post.

A year ago, Spanton prompted a Pentagon investigation by accusing the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Group of billing the government for expensive dinners and entertainment for visiting Defense Department personnel. Spanton was later ordered to report to a new job in California.

He complained to the special counsel's office and The Washington Times, claiming he was being punished. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger rescinded the transfer, and Spanton was told he would not be relocated until March, 1983, when his five-year tour ended. The Pentagon requires auditors to change assignments every five years.

Spanton asked DOD to waive its five-year rule because he planned to retire this December. But the department declined on March 10, the same day that Spanton appeared on ABC News claiming that he was being harassed by DOD.

The Pentagon claims that Spanton has talked about retiring before, but has not, and that Pratt & Whitney has refused to cooperate with Spanton. But, O'Connor said DOD may have denied Spanton's request because he had talked to the press.

The board will review the stay request Tuesday.