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White House Aide Resigns After Golf Trip by Helocopter

By Ann Devroy and Ruth Marcus
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

A senior White House official was forced to resign Thursday after he and a colleague took the presidential helicopter, Marine One, from Washington to a private country club near Camp David, Md., for an afternoon golf game Tuesday.

David Watkins, director of the White House Office of Administration and one of the Arkansas friends President Clinton brought with him to Washington, submitted his resignation after his outing with Alphonso Maldon Jr., director of the White House Military Office, became public.

A picture of the White House officials was published Wednesday in the Frederick (Md.) News-Post, making the quiet trip a public embarrassment.

Clinton announced the resignation when asked about the trip at a White House news conference Thursday afternoon. He said he knew nothing of the trip, which the press office Thursday morning had described as a routine effort to check out the course for Clinton's later use. The president said taxpayers would be reimbursed the cost of the helicopter trip, from Washington to New Market, Md., and back. If previous Pentagon estimates of the cost of military helicopter use hold true, that could be about $10,000.

Clinton said he was "very upset" when he heard about the trip, and officials said Watkins had virtually no defenders in the White House. Last year, he had been disciplined for his role in the firing of the seven employes in the travel office.

The White House Thursday night said Maldon, a political appointee, "has been reprimanded and will be reassigned," probably outside the White House.

The White House Wednesday night and Thursday morning put out what officials now realize was a cover story for the trip. It asserted that Watkins and Maldon were checking out the course for security and other reasons in advance of a possible presidential trip.

A statement drafted by the White House and released to reporters by the country club and used by White House spokesman Arthur Jones described the helicopter trip as a "training mission" to familiarize the crew with the layout of the course, which is an hour away by car.

The subsequent golf game by Watkins and Maldon, the statement said, was conducted "in order to familiarize themselves with all aspects of the course, especially those aspects related to actual time of play and associated impact of security plans."

But, as White House officials later acknowledged, neither Watkins nor Maldon have job duties involving checking out sites for presidential security - and White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said the president has no plans to play the course.