ONLY DAYS AGO we lit into Mayor Barry again for the way his administration had been giving fat rewards to former top city aides by awarding them fat contracts to do as consultants what they used to do as government workers. Today, in the interest of promoting regional fairness and eliminating rampant tackiness, we turn that same spotlight on Maryland, where Lowell K. Bridwell, who resigned less than six months ago as state secretary of transportation for Gov. Harry Hughes has just been given a little job to do for the state government -- at nearly twice what he was earning when he quit.

If there is anything good about this arrangement, it is the short duration of this mission: 25 working days at $480 a day. According to the Baltimore Evening Sun, the current transportation secretary, William K. Hellman, did seek a State Ethics Commission review of the appointment, and the commission apparently found nothing wrong with it. Too bad, because taxpayers will, and should.

For one thing, Mr. Bridwell's new special assignment has the look of a leftover from his old work days: he's been hired as a consultant to review the operation of the Motor Vehicle Administration. That's great, except before Mr. Bridwell quit the government, he had ordered reviews of all agencies under his administration.

Maybe Consultant Bridwell will find that Secretary Bridwell wasn't able to accomplish all he should have, and will recommend that Private Expert Bridwell be hired to take over where the other Bridwells left off. Salary negotiable -- but no doubt quite handsome by previous standards.

We still say a ripoff's a ripoff.