One of my favorite investigative reporters, Tom McLaughlin with the Fort Walton Daily News, reports today that auditors found the Walton County TDC had “inadequate” controls that prevented completely accounting for $121,000 worth of gift cards.
The auditors found $10,750 worth of the cars that the TDC “failed to account for at all”–about 9 percent of the cards.
In Okaloosa County, as much as $1 million in gift cards remain unaccounted for, according to McLaughlin. Mark Bellinger, the TDC director at the time of the oil spill, killed himself in May 2012 after it was discovered that he stole millions of dollars from the county.
Earlier this year, the Greater Pensacola Chamber came under fire for lack of controls over a similar gift card program. After a full investigation by auditors, of the 6,060 cards, total value $518,500, distributed by the chamber, only 65 cards, value $4,000, were not accounted for—-about three-quarters of a percent.
The gift card issue in Escambia County was really insignificant, especially when compared to the problems in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Both of the TDCs in those counties are independent of the chambers of commerce—like the new Visit Pensacola will be.