Robert P. Barone, a 23-year employee of Diebold Inc. who most recently held the position of vice chairman, has retired.

The reason for the abrupt move, which Diebold announced last week and said took effect immediately, was unclear.

Mr. Barone, who is 57 years old, could not be reached at his home in Canton, Ohio. Diebold, which is a leading provider of automated teller machines and security equipment, declined to comment on the event beyond a terse, written statement.

In addition to leaving the post of vice chairman, Mr. Barone resigned from Diebold's board. He "will continue to be available to the company in an advisory capacity through Dec. 31, 1997," the company statement said.

Mr. Barone began his career with Diebold in 1971 as a product manager in remote banking systems.

He received a series of promotions that culminated in his rise to president and chief operating officer in 1988.

In 1990, when Diebold and International Business Machines Corp. joined their ATM businesses in the Interbold venture, Mr. Barone became that unit's president and chief executive officer.

He was acclaimed as one of the leading experts on ATM technology and other retail banking delivery systems.

He was a frequent speaker and writer on those subjects, and he was a past chairman of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association.

In recent months, however, Mr. Barone's responsibilities were scaled back. In 1993, Diebold chairman Robert W. Mahoney took over the duties of president, as Mr. Barone assumed the title of vice chairman.

As Diebold looks to expand in lines of businesses such as point of sale hardware, systems integration, and electronic benefits transfer systems, it remains without a chief operating officer.

Diebold executives said there is no schedule for filling that position..

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