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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Panhandle PR fiasco costs tourism executive his job

The chief tourism official in the Florida Panhandle's Okaloosa County has resigned under pressure after admitting he spent $710,000 in county hotel bed tax money to buy a 40-foot yacht for promotional use.

The Northwest Florida Daily News reports that Mark Bellinger bought the yacht and docked it in Destin last December, but never bothered to tell members of the County Commission. Documents posted online by the Daily News include an invoice from the Zimmerman Agency, a leading public relations firm, and a handwritten notation: "Complements the best place in America to boat and live by Boating Magazine." Bellinger was hired in 2010 to run the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau in Fort Walton Beach. Full story here.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 5:40pm]


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