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Cart Blanche : Alarcon Links Simpson to Alleged 'Favors' at City Golf Course

August 03, 1996|DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PACOIMA — He's absolutely, 100% not guilty. Or is he?

O. J. Simpson found himself embroiled in yet another controversy Friday as Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon dueled with city parks officials over whether the former football star had received "special favors" while playing at Hansen Dam Golf Course.

Alarcon alleges that the municipal course provided Simpson with an extra golf cart, free of charge, on two occasions so that his bodyguard could follow along to shoo away autograph hounds.

The Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department calls the whole affair a simple misunderstanding.

"We could get fired over stuff like that," said Art Gonzalez, who rents carts at the course for $20 per round. "Nobody gets free golf carts. Even if the president came, he would have to pay."

The latest brouhaha involving Simpson and the game of golf began last Monday, when Alarcon played a round at Hansen Dam and noticed Simpson in a foursome ahead. Later in the week, he mentioned the sighting to Jim Andervich, an assistant general manager of the parks department.

According to Alarcon, Andervich said that Simpson often played there and that course employees "provided" his bodyguard with a cart. The carts are owned by a private concessionaire, with a portion of each rental going to the city.

"I was stunned," the councilman said. "I suppose if President Clinton were to golf on our public courses, we ought to give him a cart. But beyond that, I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who shouldn't pay."

Andervich was not available for comment Friday. Dick Ginevan, the city's golf and parks program manager, insisted that the councilman had misunderstood Andervich and that the extra cart had been paid for.

But Alarcon was unmoved. "I asked him specifically. Andervich said they waived the cost of the bodyguard's cart," he said.

On Friday morning, touching off a volley of angry letters and phone calls between city officials, the councilman faxed a letter to six parks commissioners expressing his "outrage" and requesting an immediate investigation. Parks officials promised a full report by Monday.

The dust-up was the latest in a string of golf-related controversies that have dogged Simpson. During his criminal trial on double-murder charges, Simpson's defense team claimed he was chipping golf balls at the time of the killings. After his acquittal, some members of the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades lobbied to have his membership revoked.

As fate would have it, Simpson was on the links at Hansen Dam on Friday morning and found himself greeted by journalists outside the clubhouse.

He expressed bewilderment at the media's lingering interest in his recreational activities and soon left--but not before signing an autograph.

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