Neil Bush is getting off with just a wrist slap in his savings and loan case, some critics say.

A top savings and loan regulator ruled Thursday that the president's son engaged in conflicts of interest as a director of a failed Colorado thrift but should be allowed to work at a bank or S&L under certain restrictions.The order by Timothy Ryan, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, closely followed the recommendations of an administrative law judge last December. It capped more than a year of legal haggling between federal regulators and the 36-year-old Bush.

One Democrat said Bush's name could have helped his case.

"It's hard for me to believe" that the fact Bush is a son of the president didn't play a role in Ryan's decision, said Rep. Bruce F. Vento, D-Minn. "I think if it was anyone else they would at least have been barred (him) for a period of time from engaging in the business."

Ryan's order said Bush "engaged in unsafe or unsound practices and breaches of his duties involving multiple

conflicts of interest" when he was a director of Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan Association of Denver.

Silverado's collapse in December 1988 is expected to cost taxpayers $1 billion to cover insured deposits.

Ryan ordered Bush to refrain from any conflicts of interest if he again becomes a director of a savings institution. He could have barred Bush from the banking and savings industry.

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, D-Mass., who like Vento is on the House Banking Committee, complained that Ryan's order simply requires Bush to obey the law. He should be banned from the industry or compelled to make restitution for losses he caused taxpayers, Kennedy said.

"This is a slap on the wrist with a velvet hammer," Kennedy said. "It seems to me that at the very least, Mr. Bush should have been ordered to pay restitution. His cozy inside deals cost the taxpayers at least a hundred million dollars."