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Okaloosa County to auction furniture from Bellinger scandal
OKALOOSA COUNTY -- OKALOOSA COUNTY - It's been eighteen months since a spending scandal rocked the Okaloosa County Tourism Department. It started with the discovery that former director Mark Bellinger used bed tax dollars to buy a yacht.
Then there was the golf course home he bought with the county's B-P money. Other items followed: RVs, motorcycles, a car. The tally was close to two million dollars, misspent.
Channel Three's Laura Hussey shows us a warehouse of expensive furniture that will soon be auctioned off, and tells us what happened to some of Bellinger's other purchases.
Laura Hussey "This is a nice desk set. Look how fancy this is, you touch the little panel here, a door pops open, you can plug in your computer and electronics. This is one of the items that will be up for auction. Mark Bellinger didn't do things on the cheap."
The scandal broke with the discovery that Bellinger used 710-thousand dollars in bed tax money to buy a swank motorboat. The county sold it through a broker last march, for just over 400 thousand.
Bill Stone/FWB "I believe they paid about 700-thousand dollars for a yacht that's worth about 350 and got some change back is I believe what the guy did"
Bellinger used the county's BP money to buy a home in Kelly Plantation for almost three-quarters of a million dollars. He committed suicide before the purchase was discovered. The US Marshal's Service sold the house for 577-thousand. It's not clear how much will finally come back to the county.
Darryl Fields "Bottom line as far as the taxpayers go, we're still footing the bill"
Two RVs purchased for forty thousand dollars each were sold for half that amount. Two custom motorcycles will be sold in a national online auction, in an attempt to recover 120-thousand dollars. The furniture was used primarily in Bellinger's Destin office, which closed after the scandal. About six thousand dollars worth was found in his home. County leaders think a live auction is their best shot at getting some money back. But they'll be lucky to get 25 cents on the dollar.
Laurie "I would love to have it. I would love to have the Harley, thank you"
David Vaughan "No thanks. I have my own furniture, I don't need a thief's furniture in my house"
Laura Hussey "The date the furniture will be auctioned off hasn't been set, but I'm told the auction will be well publicized."