C. McClain Haddow, former chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, was sentenced yesterday to one year in prison for improperly receiving $55,300 from the government and a private foundation.

U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard A. Gesell directed that Haddow be declared eligible for release after serving one-third of the term and fined him $15,000.

Subject to time credited for good behavior, Haddow will serve 90 days, said Gesell, who besides the $15,000 fine ordered restitution of more than $12,000.

"You are before a judge who has an extremely strong view of the need to make clear in this city that the conflict-of-interest statutes are not technical playthings to be gotten around," Gesell said. "They go to the heart of the government."

Haddow, 37, chief of staff under former HHS secretary Margaret M. Heckler, pleaded guilty to two conflict-of-interest charges.

He admitted receiving $33,540 for fund-raising activity from the T. Bear Foundation, established under government auspices to promote handwashing among doctors and nurses to reduce hospital-based infections.

Haddow also admitted arranging $25,330 in speech-writing contracts for two friends, who paid his wife, Alice, $21,790 to do the work.

"You were in a position of extraordinary public trust," Gesell said. "You breached that trust" with "conduct which involved concealment, perpetuation and personal gain."

Gesell ordered Haddow to pay $8,500 to the foundation and $3,540 to HHS to cover the profit on speeches written by Alice Haddow for Heckler.

Gesell, rejecting the government's contention and Heckler's denial, found that she "made use of the work of your wife to a considerable extent. I believe her knowledge was greater than she now professes."

Heckler, ambassador to Ireland, called "preposterous" the suggestion that Alice Haddow wrote her speeches, according to an FBI interview referred to during the 90-minute proceeding.

As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors agreed to drop five other charges against Haddow of mail fraud and making false statements.