Thomas P. Murphy, deputy assistant secretary for personnel at the Health and Human Services Department, has been admonished for having several subordinates help edit and type his privately published book.

The action follows an investigation by HHS Inspector General Richard P. Kusserow into allegations that Murphy improperly used government employes to work on the college textbook, "Contemporary Public Administration," which was published in 1981.

The employes who worked on Murphy's book told investigators that they did it on their own time, according to a source close to the HHS probe.

As a result, the official said, it was not clear whether the work overlapped with their government duties and there was "no direct evidence" that Murphy violated HHS regulations.

But the official said the inspector general concluded that Murphy had displayed "a lack of good judgment" and "created the potential for misunderstandings and the appearance of improper activities."

Kusserow's report was given to Murphy's boss, Assistant Secretary Thomas McFee, who admonished Murphy and "formally counseled him to separate his official duties from any personal activities in the future," the official said.

Murphy, a former University of Maryland instructor, said he had one chapter left on the book when he joined HHS in 1979, and that he followed the common academic practice of circulating a draft to his colleagues for comment.

"There was no point in having the manuscript at home because most of my time was spent down here" at HHS, Murphy said. "All of my professional people worked more than 40 hours a week. The assumption was they were doing it on their own time or on weekends."