WASHINGTON (AP) _ A former Commerce Department inspector general pleaded guilty Thursday to a criminal conflict of interest over his supervision of a government contract held by a company he was negotiating to go to work for.

In a plea bargain with the Justice Department, Francis DeGeorge pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay. No date was set for sentencing.

DeGeorge served as Commerce inspector general from April 1988 to January 1998, with responsibility for ferreting out waste and corruption within the department.

The government said that as part of his job, he oversaw and made recommendations about a contract held by Litton-PRC Inc., a Virginia-based information technology company. The contract called for updating the automated systems of the National Weather Service, which is part of the Commerce Department.

At the same time, the government said, DeGeorge met with the president of the company and other company employees to negotiate his prospective employment there. DeGeorge's negotiations with the company over a job occurred between November 1995 and July 1996, the Justice Department said.

The government did not say that DeGeorge's conduct influenced any Commerce decisions about the contract.

The maximum penalty under federal conflict-of-interest law would be up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The government agreed to recommend some leniency based upon his acceptance of responsibility. It also agreed not to oppose DeGeorge's request that he be sentenced to up to five years probation. The government said it would take no position on a fine for him.