Warren E. Barge Jr., the unwitting business partner in an FBI "sting" operation central to a federal probe of D.C. government contracting, yesterday denied any wrongdoing and said any illegal acts were committed by the FBI undercover agent who set up the sham company with him.

Barge, speaking publicly for the first time since the probe was revealed two weeks ago, said the company, B&C Management Consultants Inc., "worked on its own" to get city contracts and that neither David E. Rivers, a top aide to Mayor Marion Barry and the former head of the Department of Human Services, nor District businessman John Clyburn steered contracts to the firm.

Federal investigators are attempting to determine whether Rivers steered city contracts to B&C, and whether Clyburn acted as a middleman, enabling the firm to obtain the agency contracts. Rivers and Clyburn have denied any wrongdoing.

Barge denied reports that he had offered to cooperate with the authorities, saying he has not talked to any prosecutors nor sought to do so.

In a telephone interview from his Flint, Mich., office, Barge said he was "an acquaintance" of Rivers and that he has seen Barry "six, seven or eight times" and helped sponsor a fund-raiser for the mayor in Atlanta last year with Rivers and other businessmen. "I am not bosom friends with him," Barge said of the mayor.

He denied giving Rivers boots sought by federal agents in a search of Rivers' home and giving the mayor shoes that the U.S. attorney's office sought in a subpoena. D.C. Corporation Counsel Frederick D. Cooke Jr. said last week that Barry "has not received any footwear from Mr. Barge."

"I did not give David Rivers any boots. I never passed the mayor . . . shoes directly to him," Barge said yesterday. He did not respond when asked if anyone else had delivered shoes to the mayor on his behalf.

Earlier, Barge said, "I buy a lot of people shoes. I can name 20 people I bought shoes for in the last six months. I had some on. I know the mayor liked them . . . . They were some sharp shoes. He never asked me for any."

Barge said it was the FBI agent, acting as his partner at B&C, who came to him and said he had given Rivers "boots." Barge said he replied, "Fine, give him whatever you want."

An FBI spokesman said he could not comment on the investigation or on Barge's statements.

Barge said he first realized his partner in B&C, who authorities said was known as "Len Carey," was actually an FBI agent on May 22 -- the day the federal probe became public with a flurry of searches and subpoenas.

Barge said that the agent arrived at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, where Barge was staying. "He knocked on the door and opened his badge up," said Barge. "He said he was an FBI agent . . . . was shocked. I said, 'Okay, what can you do to me next?' "

Barge, a businessman who once owned seven cars including a vintage Rolls-Royce, is a former auto worker who these days spends time in cities around the country where he obtains federal and city contracts. Several acquaintances have described him as a "super salesman" -- a term Barge uses himself -- and one acquaintance joked that he "could sell bikinis to an Eskimo in the middle of winter."

Barge said he began spending time in Washington after one of his companies, Federal Window and Door of Livonia, Mich., was awarded two contracts for work with the District's public housing authority.

B&C, the company Barge and "Carey" formed, became the centerpiece of a 17-month undercover investigation that was triggered by a call to federal authorities by Brent Kynoch, president of Asbestos Abatement Services Inc., a local firm.

Kynoch alleged that Barge approached him and solicited money in return for help in obtaining city contracts. Kynoch said he later introduced one or more FBI agents to Barge, describing them as acquaintances.

Barge denied that, saying he called Kynoch to suggest that Kynoch needed minority participation in his firm to obtain District government business. "I wanted to talk to him about getting together and putting together a joint venture," Barge said.

Kynoch "blew it all out of proportion," Barge said. "It is totally ridiculous."

Barge said he met the man who later became his partner in B&C at Kynoch's office, and that Kynoch introduced the man as "a big guy that finances" Kynoch's company. He said the man told him, "I like the way you dress. I like the way you talk. Maybe we could put a joint venture together."

They formed the company, he said, opening offices at International Square at 1825 K St. NW, where everything was "first class."

The firm received two contracts worth $133,000 from the Department of Human Services, as well as $24,990 for an energy audit at Forest Haven, a District facility in Laurel for the mentally retarded.

Barge said B&C attempted to get both private and government contracts, a role handled by his partner. "He was trying to get contracts," said Barge. "I was never there."

In explaining his role, Barge said his job was "to get companies in the right channels, work with the right people" and handle some of the technical aspects of the contracts.

Barge said neither Rivers nor Clyburn had helped steer contracts to B&C.

"I have talked to Rivers and talked to his people," said Barge. "I don't think they had anything to do with contracting."

As to Clyburn, Barge said, "Clyburn ain't done nothing wrong as far as I'm concerned." He said Clyburn had "stopped by" his home in Hilton Head, S.C., "during one Christmas holiday a couple" of years ago.

Barge also said he knew James E. Baugh, a top Housing and Urban Development public housing official who is also a subject of the federal probe. Federal investigators are trying to determine whether Baugh steered contracts to Clyburn in return for Clyburn's employment of Baugh's wife.

Barge, whose Livonia, Mich., firm does business with public housing authorities, said that Baugh had attended a party at his home in Hilton Head. He added, "I know every HUD official. I never gave him, bought him anything."

Barge angrily denied reports that he is cooperating with federal officials in the probe. "I am not {a} turncoat," he said at one point.

"I am not cooperating . . . . I haven't talked to one {prosecutor}. I don't even know what they have on me."