Former postmaster general Paul N. Carlin sued the Postal Service's board of governors for reinstatement yesterday, charging that he was ousted in January because he tried to stop one governor's attempt to steer an equipment contract to a Texas firm.

Carlin is seeking a temporary restraining order from the U.S. District Court here to prevent the board from hiring a new postmaster general until his case is heard. Albert V. Casey, who succeeded Carlin in January, is leaving the post in August.

A hearing on Carlin's appeal will be held Monday.

In his complaint, Carlin accused former board vice chairman Peter E. Voss and governors Ruth O. Peters and George W. Camp of pressuring him and other postal officials to steer a contract toward Recognition Equipment Inc. (REI) without competitive bidding.

Voss pleaded guilty last month to charges of embezzlement and receiving kickbacks in the case. Officials at REI, based in Irving, Tex., have denied knowledge of the kickback scheme; Peters, Camp and the other governors also have denied knowing of Voss' actions.

Several investigations are continuing into allegations of impropriety at the Postal Service.

According to Carlin's complaint, the governors "allowed a cancer to develop and fester, and closed their eyes when symptoms of decay and corruption manifested themselves." Voss wanted a postmaster general more sympathetic to REI, and misled the other governors about Carlin in the effort to have him ousted, according to the complaint.

Carlin's lawyers said that because the board was misled and exceeded its authority in several instances, Carlin should be reinstated.

"Throughout my tenure as postmaster general . . . , governors Voss and Peters pressed for sole-source, noncompetitive procurement of multiline equipment from REI," Carlin said in an affidavit made public this week at a hearing of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee.

Carlin also said that the board conducted a search for his successor behind his back. According to Carlin, REI President William Moore contacted Casey to see if he would take Carlin's job. The board's executive search firm, MSL Inc., subsequently recommended Casey.

MSL's director, William A. Spartin, was named by Voss as a participant in the scheme to steer the postal contract to REI. As president of Gnau Associates Inc., a public relations firm, Spartin represented REI in its negotiations with the Postal Service about the purchase of equipment worth as much as $380 million.

Spartin has been given immunity from prosecution and is cooperating in the investigation.

In his affidavit, Carlin said he did not speak up earlier about the board's actions because, if he had, it "would undoubtedly be interpreted as 'sour grapes.' "