Records of more than $41,000 spent from D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's ceremonial fund from 1984 through 1986 are missing or incomplete, leaving unexplained the expenditure of thousands of dollars for hotels, caterers and cash outlays, according to internal documents obtained yesterday by The Washington Post.

The records show that the aide in charge of the discretionary account set aside for Barry's use for official expenses wrote $5,750 worth of checks to cash without documenting the purpose of most of the payments or filing receipts.

Of $41,357 in expenditures over three years, nearly $13,000 was paid to caterers, restaurants or hotels, with little documentation of the purpose of events. Another $1,300 went to Woodward & Lothrop for "fashion housewares," Lenox china, "fancy glassware," silver and crystal. There is no indication who received the items.

In addition, the records show that about $6,800 was spent for flowers. The names of many of the recipients were deleted from the records and sources said city officials had obtained an internal legal opinion justifying the deletion.

Hotel bills, as well, appeared to have been altered to remove telephone charges and telephone numbers. In two cases, the names of registered guests were blotted out from hotel bills.

More than $1,100 was paid for expenses that appear to be politically related, including a hotel stay for Jesse L. Jackson, tickets for a Jackson-sponsored event and a birthday party for Joslyn Williams, who heads the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, an umbrella labor organization.

The ceremonial fund, a $17,500 annual account that is one of two discretionary accounts established for the mayor's use, is intended to cover miscellaneous expenses associated with the mayor's conduct of office. Expenditures for entertainment and gifts are legitimate if related to official business, city officials have said.

A federal grand jury is scrutinizing the records to determine whether the funds were used improperly to cover personal expenses of Barry or his wife Effi, sources have said. The Washington Post obtained a court order for the release of the records yesterday after city officials lost an extended legal battle to keep the records secret. Barry had previously asserted that records of the ceremonial account were confidential.

The newspaper filed suit in May 1986 in D.C. Superior Court to obtain the records. In a key ruling last month, the D.C. Court of Appeals rejected an argument presented by the Barry administration that release of the documents and subsequent publication in The Post would irreparably harm the D.C. government. The judges said the law favors "a broad policy of disclosure" of government documents.

City officials familiar with the federal probe of the ceremonial fund said at least three top aides to Barry have appeared before the grand jury to discuss the expenses, including former city administrator Elijah B. Rogers and Dwight S. Cropp, a senior Barry adviser who was responsible for the fund during the early 1980s. George Thomas, a city controller brought in to oversee the fund last year, also has testified, according to sources.

City officials acknowledge that documentation is missing for many of the expenditures, but say the records reflect no abuse of funds.

Herbert O. Reid Sr., legal counsel to the mayor, has said the records reflect only sloppy book-keeping. "We're not asking for an award on how we kept them," Reid said last night.

Separate records of the mayor's travel and entertainment records, released a year ago after a similar suit brought by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act also showed a lack of documentation for expenditures totaling about $57,000 during a four-year period.

A few days before those records were released, the mayor reimbursed the city for $4,791 for expenses lacking proper documentation and for three personal trips. He later reimbursed the city for additional expenses related to political activities.

At the time, the mayor and his aides blamed the shoddy record-keeping on Robert Robinson, the administrative officer of the office of mayor, and reassigned him. Barry recently has contended that it is Robinson -- not the mayor -- who is under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in connection with the accounts.

Robinson, who resigned from city government earlier this summer, has declined to comment on the expenditures. He could not be reached last night.

Robinson's name also surfaced in the 1986 conviction of former deputy mayor Ivanhoe Donaldson, who is serving a prison term for defrauding the District government. Court papers at the time said Robinson approved expenses for Donaldson even though he never received documentation to support them. Robinson was not charged in that case.

Eight checks made payable to cash are of particular interest to federal authorities, according to a source. The checks ranged from $100 to $1,850 and were signed by Robinson. The records do not show who cashed them.

Documents attached to some of the checks cited "reimbursement for petty cash." In other cases, the explanation is not legible because of the poor quality of some copies provided by the city.

Robinson also signed a check for $640 made out to him personally. A notation says the payment covered $440 in "Jackson tickets" and a $200 reimbursement for unexplained expenses.

Among one of the more puzzling expenditures was $100 that was transferred from the fund to the Mini-Art Gallery with the expectation that the funds would be reimbursed, according to the records. The documents provide no further explanation of the expense.

Another $700 payment was made to the American Express Co. with only the notation "American Express, Ceremonial and Democratic National Convention."

The records reflect particularly scanty documentation for hotel expenses, which amounted to a total of $7,689. In the case of a $101 bill from Charlotte City Center Marriott Hotel in August 1984, the documents show only that a room was rented by "the D.C. Government." Staff writers Nancy Lewis and Michael York contributed to this report.