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Official: Buying county a yacht was wrong

Official: Buying county a yacht was wrong
Local tourism director Mark Bellinger resigned after buying a yacht for Okaloosa County. (UPI File Photo/Anatoli Zhdanov) | License Photo

CRESTVIEW, Fla., May 4 (UPI) -- A former tourism director in Okaloosa County, Fla., acknowledged using public money for a $710,000 yacht was a mistake.

Mark Bellinger resigned Tuesday as head of the Tourism Development Council in Okaloosa County, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported. He said the luxury yacht was intended to be a vehicle for promotional campaigns for the county, which is in the Florida panhandle.

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Bellinger met with angry county commissioners and argued he was trying to do his best for the county when he made the purchase, which was paid for by a tax on hotel stays. But he agreed he should not have spent that kind of money without consulting anyone else.

"I did put the cart before the horse," he said. "It was a mistake in judgment on my part."

Commissioners now want to sell the boat, which has been sitting at a Destin yacht club since it was purchased in December.

"I want to get rid of it as fast as possible with a good deal for the county," Commissioner Bill Roberts said. "It's an embarrassment to the county to have that titled in the county's name."

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While officials say there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, they are checking the accounts to see what other purchases Bellinger might have made.

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