CHESTER, Pa. (AP) _ Mayor Barbara Bohannon-Sheppard said Wednesday her top aide, a convicted murderer, would work without pay for the time being, but might sue the city for taking his salary away.

The City Council voted 2-1 last week to suspend Robert Hill's $32,500 salary, with the mayor the only opponent. The city solicitor said the council didn't have the power to fire Hill.

Council members said they feared Hill's hiring would further tarnish the image of this blighted old industrial city of 42,000 people.

Bohannan-Sheppard says Hill, 42, has reformed and deserves a second chance. She also said Hill is qualified for the job, which involves typing and answering the telephone.

''I urge everyone to look at Mr. Hill for who he is today, and not for who he was 18 years ago,'' the mayor said at a news conference.

Hill stabbed an insurance agent 17 times in 1963 and then raped a teen-ager eleven years later. He served prison terms for both crimes.