Okaloosa denies TDC request for Houchins third term

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:07 AM.

Commissioner Wayne Harris said the county needs to “stay tuned to its existing policies.”

“Kathy (Houchins) is a phenomenal friend and a phenomenal person,” he said. “I just think we’re sending the wrong message when we wave a policy we’ve just established.”

In early May, the TDC was among many county departments rocked by the discovery of a financial scandal that ultimately claimed the life of former tourism director Mark Bellinger.

Bellinger, 53, died May 4 of a drug overdose amid fraud allegations. The FBI discovered that he spent $747,000 from a BP oil spill grant to illegally buy his home in Destin. Authorities also found that Bellinger had made numerous questionable expenditures with bed tax money, including $710,000 for a Marquis yacht.

O’Byrne, who was hired in August to replace Bellinger, has been dealing with increased oversight from commissioners and more stringent policies, particularly those governing spending.

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Kari Barlow at 850-315-4438 or kbarlow@nwfdailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @KariBnwfdn.

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