Fairfax County will not pay for County Executive Robert J. O'Neill Jr.'s golf clubs, which were stolen from a county car at a North Carolina conference last month, but the taxpayers still will foot the $2,000 bill for clubs that belonged to O'Neill's friend.
O'Neill had requested that Fairfax County pay for the stolen golf clubs because the county car he drives is covered by the government's self-insurance plan. But O'Neill said yesterday that he has returned the check he received from the county and will be paid instead by his homeowner's policy.
"They will reimburse me for the clubs," he said of his insurance company. He declined to name the company, saying that was private information. "I explained to them the unique situation with the car, and they sent me a check."
The two sets of clubs were stolen from O'Neill's county-owned Ford Explorer during a trip to Chapel Hill for a conference on technology in local government.
O'Neill has been criticized for leaving the county to attend the meeting on June 2, the day that a tanker filled with black powder overturned on the Springfield interchange and threw the region into a day of traffic gridlock.
O'Neill's homeowner's insurance company initially declined to cover the cost of the clubs but this week reconsidered and agreed to reimburse him about $2,000 to cover the loss of his Callaway woods, including the popular Big Bertha driver, which can retail for $400.
Several county supervisors, who were critical of O'Neill's decision to seek county payment for the stolen clubs, said they were pleased.
Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) said O'Neill showed poor judgment in seeking reimbursement, but he added, "I'd say the county executive showed good judgment in not taking the check now."
"I was relieved to learn that his homeowner's insurance and not the taxpayers of Fairfax County would be paying for his golf clubs," said Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly (D-Providence). "This is as it should be."
Neither supervisor was happy that the county will pay for the clubs owned by William H. Hansell Jr., executive director of the International City/County Management Association. The clubs were stolen from the car while it was parked in a Sheraton Hotel parking lot.
O'Neill said the county's risk management division, which administers the self-insurance plan that pays claims for the county, is in discussion with the Sheraton about whether the hotel bears some responsibility for the theft.
"I certainly would hope that those conversations would produce a result other than Fairfax County paying for Mr. Hansell's golf clubs," Connolly said.