Okaloosa could sue advertising firms over Bellinger’s thefts

tcdc bellinger boat
FILE PHOTO / Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 10:35 AM.

As Okaloosa County commissioners begin trying to recoup many of Mark Bellinger’s questionable purchases, they have not ruled out legal action against Lewis Communications and The Zimmerman Agency.

“We’re going to do everything we can to recover what money we can,” Commission Chairman Don Amunds said Thursday.

The board recently authorized Tallahassee attorney Greg Stewart to sue either of the advertising firms if necessary.

The Zimmerman Agency of Tallahassee and Mobile, Ala.,-based Lewis Communications are advertising firms that held lucrative contracts with the Tourist Development Council. Zimmerman held its contract for about 20 years while Lewis Communications was brought onboard in the spring of 2011 by Bellinger, the former director of the TDC.

Almost 11 months after Bellinger’s fraud scheme was discovered, county officials continue to scrutinize the transactions the two firms made under their respective contracts.

Stewart said the county has notified Lewis that it will seek damages for the four-bedroom house in Destin that Bellinger purchased illegally with $747,000 in BP grant money. Bellinger bought the house using an invoice filed through Lewis Communications.

“Lewis wire transferred the money that was supposed to be used for marketing services,” Commissioner Dave Parisot said. “They didn’t do the marketing. They bought a house.”

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