The Interior Department has sent the Justice Department the results of an internal conflict-of- interest investigation of the Interior Department's top lawyer in California and has reassigned the lawyer, Interior Secretary Donald Hodel said yesterday.

Hodel said in a letter to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) that the lawyer, David Lindgren, has been "temporarily reassigned" from his duties as solicitor of the department's Pacific southwest region.

Hodel's letter gave no details of the investigation by the department's inspector general, but Interior spokesman Mitchell Snow said the probe centered on contacts Lindgren had earlier this year with a law firm representing the Westlands Water District in California's Central Valley.

"Mr. Lindgren reported to his superior that he had conversations with an attorney who represented Westlands regarding employment," Snow said. He said it is standard practice to send reports to the Justice Department "if the inspector general thinks there is something in it Justice should know."

Lindgren said he has "committed no improprieties" and expects to be exonerated by the inspector general.

Lindgren was chief Interior negotiator in last year's settlement of a suit by Westlands, the Bureau of Reclamation's largest irrigation customer, over the amount and price of the district's subsidized water.