Okaloosa County officials on Monday are set to make their second appearance in three weeks before the state Joint Legislative Auditing Committee in Tallahassee.
The Auditing Committee has subpoenaed County Commissioner Don Amunds, County Commissioner Wayne Harris and Curtis Zimmerman, president of The Zimmerman Agency, to answer questions about the fraud scheme concocted by former tourism head Mark Bellinger.
The meeting is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Capitol.
The Zimmerman Agency of Tallahassee is a marketing and advertising firm that held a lucrative contract with the TDC for about 20 years.
The joint committee, made up of six state representatives and five state senators, also plans to examine many of the findings in the auditor general’s recent audit of the county and the Tourist Development Council.
Amunds said he plans to attend the hearing. Harris, who is being represented by Tallahassee attorney Ronald Meyer, also plans to attend.
Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.
The Auditing Committee also has asked several other officials to appear voluntarily. They include County Administrator Jim Curry, County Attorney John Dowd, Clerk of Court Don Howard, former TDC attorney Steve Hall and Lewis Communications Vice President Ellen Wingard.
The committee specified that Wingard or another Lewis representative “should have detailed knowledge” of the transaction that resulted in Bellinger’s purchase of a house in Destin with $747,000 in BP grant money.
Lewis Communications’ attorney, Gus Fontenot of Mobile, could not be reached for comment.
Also asked to attend were several former and current members of the TDC. They include Warren Gourley, chairman of the TDC; Bobby Nabors, a Fort Walton Beach city councilman and TDC member; and former TDC members Kathy Houchins, Patricia Hardiman and Nick Nicholson.
It remains unclear why former TDC members Lino Maldonado and Tim Edwards were not asked to appear.
While Gourley and Houchins said they plan to attend and welcome the chance to speak, Nicholson will stay home.
"I don’t feel that I have any additional insight," Nicholson said. "I didn’t approve any invoices. I didn’t approve any payments."
He said he consulted with law enforcement as well as a senior auditor in the state Auditor General’s Office before he decided.
Nicholson said his attendance would be a waste of his time and the committee’s.
"I think they pretty well know what happened and how it happened, and hopefully they’ll come up with some solutions to make sure it doesn’t happen again," he said.
Some TDC members say they are frustrated that the Auditing Committee hasn’t specified whether they will be asked to speak. Hardiman and Nabors said they are willing to attend but were trying to find out if they will be called to speak.
"I may not go if their intent is for me to just be present and listen," Hardiman said.
Nabors, who owns Liquid Surf & Sail, said it's a burden to have to leave his shop for an entire day.
"I still work for a living," he said. "These other county officials are getting paid."
Nabors said he also isn’t interested in listening to the committee question the county officials.
"I'm not against being part of the process," Nabors said. "I just don’t need to sit there and watch the process."
County Commissioner Dave Parisot, who was the county's liaison to the TDC during Bellinger’s tenure, said he plans to attend even though the Auditing Committee excused him.
"To me, it’s an issue of fairness," Parisot said. "If (the other TDC members are going), I’m going to go, too."