A Kansas company owned by a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) paid $4,500 a month in consulting fees to a close Dole associate after Dole's office worked for more than a year to help the company get a government contract, according to knowledgeable sources.

Mitchell S. (Mike) Pettit, Dole's former administrative assistant and now an adviser to the Dole presidential campaign, said yesterday that he had met with senior officials of the Small Business Administration and made phone calls on behalf of John Palmer, who worked in Dole's Kansas City office in 1980-82.

Palmer's company, EDP Enterprises Inc., got a $26-million no-bid contract with the Army in 1986, and subsequently began to pay Dole's close political ally, David C. Owen, $4,500 a month for consulting. Pettit said he learned only recently that Owen had a financial arrangement with Palmer's firm.

Owen, a former lieutenant governor of Kansas who ran Dole's Senate campaigns in 1974 and 1980, stepped down Jan. 14 as a top finance official of Dole's presidential campaign. He resigned after disclosures that, while serving as financial adviser to a blind trust containing the assets of Dole's wife, Elizabeth Hanford Dole, Owen mingled his companies' business with the trust's. According to an informed source, Owen made a $139,000 commission on one transaction with the Dole trust.

Both Doles denied any knowledge of the trust's activities, including any of its dealings with Owen.

Pettit, who described his efforts on Palmer's behalf as "a routine deal," said he had talked to Dole about Palmer getting a contract a number of times, and "may" have talked with Owen about it as well. "Dave knew we were trying to help Palmer," Pettit said. Congressional offices regularly pressure the SBA to award contracts to certain parties.

In this instance the SBA gave a minority set-aside contract to Palmer's company, EDP, to provide food to mess halls at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., an Army base. Palmer is black.

Tax statements and other documents previously made public showed that Elizabeth Dole's trust had entered into a number of financial transactions with Palmer's EDP in 1986. At the time, Owen was the trust's financial adviser.

Palmer's firm paid interest of $14,420 to the blind trust on a loan from the trust, according to the trust's 1986 tax return. In December 1986, the Palmer firm went into partnership with the Dole trust as joint owner of a $1.6 million office building in a Kansas City suburb. Simultaneously, the blind trust accepted from Palmer's firm a $279,000 promissory note as partial payment for EDP's share of that building, according to documents released earlier by the Dole campaign.

It appears from the documents released by the Doles that the $279,000 debt, which is to be repaid at a rate of $5,000 a month through December 1991, is still outstanding and that Elizabeth Dole is still in partnership with Palmer's company. Owen earned the $139,000 commission when the trust first bought the building in January 1986.

William Powell, SBA regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo., said Friday that recent press reports have led the agency to begin an investigation into the ownership and control of Palmer's company, in which Palmer is listed as sole stockholder and president.

Owen has recently acknowledged to the Kansas City Times that he helped obtain financing for EDP. An Owen company, Eagle Distributors, served as subcontractor for Palmer's Army contract. Palmer's and Owen's companies have adjacent offices in the Overland Park building part-owned by Elizabeth Dole.

A July 1985 filing by Palmer's company lists as a director Sara Cedarholm. Cedarholm, an employee of Owen & Associates, Owen's consulting firm, traveled widely in 1986 and 1987 for Campaign America, Sen. Dole's political action committee. The committee reimbursed her expenses.

Owen and Palmer did not return telephone calls last week. On Friday Owen issued a statement through his public relations representative saying he was "increasingly frustrated to realize that I should have been more careful with the appearance of some activities."

"As I reconstruct, to the best of my ability, my actions in each and every one of the areas where questions have been raised, I am renewed in my knowledge that my behavior was proper," said Owen, who served as the trust's independent financial adviser.

It could not be determined precisely when EDP's $4,500-a-month consulting fees to Owen began or ended, if they have.

The disclosure that Palmer's firm paid consulting fees to Owen is the latest installment in a controversy that came to light in Kansas newspapers two weeks ago. Sen. Dole personally has not been linked to any of the Owen-Palmer dealings, and no improper behavior on his part has been alleged.

News accounts of the financial relationships between Owen and Palmer and their ties to Dole have had no apparent impact on Dole's standing in the caucus state of Iowa, where a recent poll shows him leading with 41 percent to Vice President Bush's 28 percent.

The extent of Dole's personal involvement in securing the contract for Palmer is still not known. One source familiar with the contract said Dole telephoned then-SBA Administrator James C. Sanders in late 1983 or early 1984 and asked him to "see what he could do" for Palmer.

Dole and his staff said last week that they have no recollection or record of any such call, although Pettit said Sanders may have called Dole to tell him Palmer was getting a contract.

Contacted Wednesday, Sanders denied receiving a call from Dole about Palmer. Yesterday, he said it was "quite possible" he and Dole had spoken about Palmer, but said he had no recollection that had occurred.

Pettit said yesterday that he, Palmer and black Kansas businessman Leroy Tombs met with top Sanders lieutenants in late 1983 or 1984 to "introduce them all down there so they could learn about the opportunities in the {SBA} programs." Tombs then held the Fort Leonard Wood contract, but gave it up in late 1985 because of financial difficulties, and Palmer took it over. Shortly after that the Army awarded a new three-year contract to Palmer.

The House Small Business Committee, which is conducting a preliminary review of the award process in the Palmer case, has learned that the SBA twice refused to certify EDP for the minority business program on grounds that Palmer lacked financial support. The committee staff is looking into why the SBA abruptly reversed itself.

On July 12, 1985, at about the same time as the reversal, EDP's incorporation papers filed with the Kansas state government listed its capital as $1,000.

Staff researcher Colette T. Rhoney contributed to this report.