Some members of a Prince George's County grand jury that probed charges of improper land deals by county officials are complaining openly that their work was thwarted by court officials who supervised the seven-month investigation.

Their complaints, some of which were sent in a letter to Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, include dissatisfaction with the handling of the case by Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli and the conduct of veteran Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Vincent J. Femia, who supervised the probe.

The grand jury was looking into allegations that the Prince George's County Council and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission bought two pieces of property at inflated prices from former Maryland secretary of state Fred L. Wineland, the father of council member F. Kirwan Wineland.

It was also investigating charges of improper dumping by the John Driggs Corp., a politically active builder in the county.

One grand jury member, Paul Emmons, said the deals "amounted to pure and simple favoritism. It was the good old boys taking care of their own."

Among the jurors' concerns was that Femia telephoned Fred Wineland and Driggs attorney John Miles, both longtime friends of the judge's, during the grand jury's term.

Wineland and Miles said there was nothing illegal about the matters the grand jury was investigating.

Stan Fedder of Fort Washington, a citizen familiar with the grand jury's work, has alleged in a complaint to the state Judicial Disabilities Commission, which monitors judicial conduct, that Femia acted improperly by making the calls. Prosecutors described the calls as highly unusual judicial conduct.

Femia, however, defended his decision to contact Wineland and Miles.

In an interview yesterday, Femia said he placed the phone calls to see if he could elicit voluntary cooperation with the grand jury's inquiry to avoid issuing subpoenas. The 23-member grand jury, which was convened in October 1989, met for seven months before issuing a report criticizing the County Council and county executive's office for land deals that it said "create highly questionable appearances."

The report criticized no one by name and contained no specifics about the land deals.

Most of the jury's work was done by a special ad-hoc committee that it set up to investigate citizen complaints of improper land swaps and purchases.

The allegations were so extensive that the grand jury asked Femia to extend its term so it could complete its examination.

The grand jury report, which was voted on by the full grand jury, noted that it had determined "that insufficient evidence is available at this time concerning these matters to warrant indictments for criminal conduct."

But some grand jury members say that conclusion was issued only after Montanarelli assured the panel that he would take its files back to his office for further investigation by trained criminal prosecutors.

Montanarelli, however, said in an interview that he decided that the case warranted no further investigation before the jury concluded its work. He said he may have created a "misunderstanding" with the grand jury by agreeing to store its files in his office.

Montanarelli said he plainly told the jury that "there was no basis for further criminal investigation."

Jury foreman Clara Goudin agreed with Montanarelli's version of events, saying the grand jury "simply did not have the evidence" to indict and that the conduct of all court officials was proper. One grand jury member, however, was so frustrated by the investigation's outcome that he wrote to Schaefer last month seeking an independent review of Montanarelli and the grand jury's conduct.

Charles "Bud" Snyder of Brandywine, a retired federal worker, asked Schaefer to investigate "all county and state parties involved in this case."

Schaefer's response, which Snyder received this week, said he could not get involved in the judicial process. Schaefer said his staff had contacted Prince George's Circuit Court Judge James Rea and been assured that a grand jury would look into the matter. Rea could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In May, Fedder, a citizen activist who testified before the grand jury and closely followed its work, lodged a complaint against Femia and other court officers for interference in the grand jury's workings.

The complaint, written to Judicial Disabilities Commission Director Harold Wallin, says that one grand jury member was shocked to learn that Femia had contacted Wineland and Miles while the special panel was conducting its inquiry. Wallin would not discuss the matter.

"It is simply not proper for judges to do things like this," the letter said.

In an interview, Femia said he called Wineland and Miles twice -- once when the grand jury panel was considering issuing subpoenas and again to inform them that the jury had concluded its work. He said that the jury, which relied heavily on his legal counsel, decided not to interview Wineland or principals of the Driggs Corp. because it had no evidence of criminal misconduct.

Several grand jury members, who spoke on the condition that their names not be used, said that after talking with Femia, a decision was made not to subpoena witnesses because of a fear that it would unfairly tarnish reputations.

Wineland, whom Femia described as a long-time friend with shared interests in hunting and fishing, said he saw nothing improper or unusual about Femia's phone calls.

He also said his land deals with the county were "open and aboveboard."

"There were a lot of names being thrown around, and the judge had a flashback and remembered in his mind that I represented them {the Driggs Corp.}," said Miles, who said his friendship with Femia had nothing to do with the call. "I don't know if I had ever had the occasion to receive such a phone call before, but I didn't see anything improper about it. All he was trying to do was assist and facilitate the grand jury with what it was doing at the time."

Asked about Femia's phone calls, Montanarelli said, "I've never seen that happen before. But I'm not going to say there was anything wrong with it."

Staff writer Paul Duggan contributed to this story.