Unprecedented pressures from the Reagan White House in 1982 caused the Small Business Administration to push for a lucrative minority business contract for the Wedtech Corp. and top it off with an extraordinary $3 million award for special expenses, a former SBA deputy director testified yesterday.

The now-retired official, Donald R. Templeman, told a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee that a high-ranking White House aide, James Jenkins, called him three or four times in the spring of 1982 to discuss prospects of getting the Army engine contract for Wedtech and then summoned him to a White House meeting on the subject.

"It was the only time it happened while I was there," Templeman said. He said he had been to the White House a number of other times to discuss SBA business, but never for a specific contract. Jenkins, according to Templeman, initiated all the calls, saying that he had been given "the task within the White House . . . to see if this contract could be awarded" to Wedtech despite complaints from the Army that the price was too high.

Templeman said he assumed the assignment stemmed from a 1980 campaign promise by President Reagan to promote employment in the south Bronx where Wedtech, then the Welbilt Electronic Die Corp., had its headquarters.

"Did he {Jenkins} say who had given him that task," asked Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the oversight of government management subcommittee.

"Not that I recall," Templeman replied. "I assume he was given it by his boss," Edwin Meese III, then counselor to the president and now attorney general.

Meese, who is under investigation by an independent counsel for the role he may have played in assisting Wedtech, has said he simply told aides to see that Wedtech got "a fair hearing." Templeman's testimony contrasted with that account.

According to other testimony and records produced at the hearing, Jenkins, who was hired by Wedtech as a consultant in 1985 after he had left the White House, was paid $169,056 for post-government work for the firm. E. Bob Wallach, a Meese friend who asked Meese to intervene on Wedtech's behalf, received $1,365,556 in stocks and cash.

Subcommittee investigators said the fees were part of $11.6 million in salaries, fees, bonuses and other cash payments that went to selected "insiders" and consultants for the "economically disadvantaged" company from 1982 to 1986.

Wedtech's new corporate counsel, Martin Pollner, hired late last year as the company was plunging into bankruptcy, said another list he compiled from incomplete records showed that former Wedtech officials, employes and consultants made another $25,741,334 from sales of Wedtech stock since 1983 when the company startled the SBA bureaucracy by going public.

SBA officials, in a controversial move that Levin said was based on "misstatements" and "errors," allowed the company to retain its minority status, even though its Meese, who is under investigation by an independent counsel, has said he simply told aides to see that Wedtech got "a fair hearing."

supposedly disadvantaged Hispanic owner and founder, John Mariotta, had $1.3 million in his bank account at the time.

The SBA finally took steps to revoke the company's eligibility for no-bid government contracts in early 1986 after Mariotta was ousted in an internal dispute as chairman and chief executive officer.

Before the revocation became public, however, Pollner said former Wedtech officals as well as former White House aide Lyn Nofziger "unloaded" some $10 million worth of stock in two 48-hour periods, on March 26-27, 1986, and April 9-10, 1986. Wedtech officially requested termination of their minority business status in a March 27 letter to SBA officials in New York, but Pollner said the action did not become publicly known until mid-April.

According to Pollner's records, Nofziger and his partner, Mark Bragg, both recently indicted for violating federal conflict-of-interest laws in their 1982 lobbying for Wedtech at the White House and other agencies, each sold 33,000 blocks of stock in March 1986 for $651,750. The subcommittee said the company had also paid the two men $234,595 for their services as Wedtech consultants.

Levin said the stock sale records would be turned over to the Securities and Exchange Commission for review in light of insider trading laws. A lawyer for Nofziger, Robert Plotkin, told a reporter later that Nofziger "denies violating any federal laws, including securities laws." Plotkin said Nofziger "did not sell because of any knowledge that Wedtech's status under the 8a {minority business} program was about to be terminated." He declined to say why Nofziger sold his holdings when he did.

Under questioning by subcommittee members, Templeman said he would never have "gone along" with the 1982 contract for Wedtech, a no-bid award to build engines for the Army, except for the White House interest.

"They were not engine builders. They were sheet metal people," Templeman said. But for the White House intervention, he said he also would not have recommended -- as he did -- that the $27.7 million engine contract be supplemented with a $3 million "business development expense (BDE)" and with $2 million in advance payments. Average BDE grants at the time were $100,000 and a Templeman aide at SBA told Army officials on March 19, 1982, that a multimillion-dollar grant to one firm would "raise questions" about the entire minority business program.

"I felt it was probably unwise," Templeman said of the 1982 award to Wedtech, but he observed at another point, "It is hard to resist when you are in a meeting in the West Wing of the White House."

Then-SBA Administrator James Sanders, who had just been sworn in, approved the $3 million BDE grant -- and a $2 million contract advance -- on June 18, 1982, 10 days before Wedtech asked for the money.