Okaloosa to start internal probe of TDC scandal (DOCUMENTS)

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 11:10 AM.

“Everything from employees to subcontractors will be looked at and everyone will be held responsible,” he said. “If somebody made a mistake, you gotta step up to the plate and own up to it. That’s the way I look at it.”

During the internal investigation — which must be approved by commissioners — the county also will look at the misuse of 1,047 of the 5,000 BP promotional debit cards given to the county after the 2010 oil spill. The $200 debit cards were to be used to draw tourists to the area.

The state audit found that:

  •     46 of the 1,047 cards were used to purchase a variety of items such as furnishings, lodging, alcoholic beverages, food and entertainment;
  •     21 of the 46 cards were used by an RV driver hired by The Zimmerman Agency, an advertising firm that contracted with the TDC;
  •     11 of the 46 cards were used by two Zimmerman Agency public relations associates working with the TDC;
  •     8 of the 46 cards were used by Bellinger;
  •     6 of the 46 cards were used by either the RV driver or the two Zimmerman employees;
  •     1,000 of the 1,047 debit cards were given to Vision Airlines by Bellinger, and one card was used as a prize in a local golf tournament.

Curry said it is believed that the cards used by the two Zimmerman employees and the RV driver were provided to them by Bellinger for travel and other expenses on marketing trips, but the county has not confirmed that yet.

Amunds and Curry said the county also is moving ahead with efforts to recoup much of the money Bellinger spent in illegal and unapproved purchases.

Curry said the county has sent letters to various people and companies explaining that they had been paid with questionable funds and that the county is seeking to resolve the problem.

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