PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The former leader of the union representing city employees was sentenced Wednesday to 46 months in prison for theft, conspiracy, mail fraud and racketeering.

Earl Stout may have been ''a good man and a generous man but unfortunately his generosity was with somebody else's money - the union whose trust he enjoyed,'' said U.S. District Judge J. William Ditter Jr.

Stout, who will be 68 this month, headed District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for 14 years. He was convicted in May of stealing more than $700,000 from the union, which represents 13,000 municipal workers, most of them trash collectors.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Ainslie was able to dissuade Ditter from imposing the maximum 70-month sentence the government sought. Stout will be on probation for three years after he serves his jail term.

''Mr. Stout is not an evil man,'' Ainslie said. ''He is, in fact, a good man. It is true that he acted often without authorization. But he always acted in the best interests of the union, which was central in his life.''

Stout's attorney said she would immediately appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She said Stout would remain free on $100,000 bail pending that appeal, which could take a year.

Stout was convicted on 32 counts of mail fraud, six of theft and one each of conspiracy and racketeering.

Among the allegations were that he gave no-show jobs at union-owned John F. Kennedy Hospital, which was headed by his son. He also was accused of hiring consultants without permission from the union's governing boards, converting the beneficiary on two life insurance policies on himself from the hospital to his family, and using hospital employees to work on properties owned by his family or his friends.

Ditter also ordered Stout to make restitution to the union of $445,309, although Assistant U.S. Attorney John Dodds had asked the judge to order Stout to repay $1,016,281.

Union attorney Howard Kaufman told the judge restitution was important and that Stout ''without authority took thousands and thousands of dollars.''

Stout said nothing to the judge before sentencing.

The judge said the sentence was limited to federal guidelines and acknowledged Stout ''did a great deal for the union members, but he also did a great deal for himself.''

Ainslie said Stout had no comment after the sentence. ''He was obviously relieved it wasn't a longer sentence,'' she said.

She said Stout never stole money from the union, even if he may have wasted it, and that she would pursue that argument on appeal.

Cynthia Bullock, former head of the union's legal services program, was convicted with Stout on May 4 of illegally getting money from the union treasury. Ditter sentenced her Wednesday to six months of house detention followed by five years' probation.

Ms. Bullock was convicted of conspiracy, mail fraud and embezzlement.