Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.) has formally apologized to Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan for calling him "a disgrace to his race," sources said yesterday.

In a three-paragraph letter dated Monday, the sources said, Stark wrote: "I apologize to you for the inaccurate, inept, indefensible and totally uncalled for remarks regarding you as a human and as a professional. On both counts, you stand above reproach." The letter from Stark ended with, "I hope you can accept my apology."

Last Thursday, Stark, who is white, attacked Sullivan, the only black member of the Cabinet, during a news conference on Capitol Hill. Stark, chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health, told reporters that Sullivan was "a disgrace to his race because he does not really have the courage to turn his back on {White House Chief of Staff John H.} Sununu and an administration {that} is working to the disadvantage of poor and minority" Americans.

The attack, Stark explained, grew out of his increasing frustration with Sullivan's positions on several health care issues. Stark was particularly upset by a speech Sullivan made July 23 saying he opposed national health insurance, which Stark strongly supports.