DESTIN, Fla. (WALA) - A search is underway to try to locate 52-year-old Mark Bellinger who recently resigned as the Director of the Okaloosa County Tourist Development.
Authorities said Bellinger left a suicide note at his home on Stonebridge Road in Kelly Plantation in Destin. They say it was discovered Thursday around 3 p.m. by a family member.
Officials said Bellinger's car, a 2011 4-door silver Subaru Legacy with Florida license tag 262 NFS, is missing.
The search began shortly after it was announced that the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office is investigating an unauthorized purchase of a yacht, with an estimated value of $710,000, by the former director.
"This was unethical; there's just no other way to say it," said Kathy Newby, a county spokeswoman.
According to the County Commission, Bellinger no longer has a job because he used bed tax dollars, a tourist tax which is supposed to go to advertising, to purchase the yacht.
The former TDC director didn't tell anyone about the purchase; much less get approval for such an expenditure.
The commission said the funding didn't even go through the finance department, but a separate advertising agency.
"So it wasn't really clear that a boat had purchased," Newby said. "It said a 'yacht promotion campaign,' so everybody thought they were purchasing advertising. Nobody knew we were purchasing a boat until the title was received."
Once that happened, Bellinger stated his case in a meeting.
If one asks Newby, there were still plenty of loose ends.
"I think this is somewhat deceptive. And to me, it's not very clear," Newby said. "But, from what we have been told, it was going to be used to advertise and give away weekends on the boat."
FOX10 News asked Newby why the general consensus is that the yacht was not purchased for Bellinger's personal use.
"We are investigating this. We have been told that by (Bellinger). And I was out here earlier today, and a gentleman said, 'Well, I've only seen it go out once or twice.' I think they did do a test run out here in the harbor after it was delivered," Newby said. "That's what we know now, what we're stating is what we know. There's a lot we don't know."
It won't just be up to the county commission and the sheriff's office to get to the bottom of all this, the FBI has also joined the investigation.
And in the meantime, the county will look for a way to sell the yacht.
As for the investigation into Bellinger's whereabouts, deputies said anyone with any information is asked to contact the OCSO at (850) 651-7400.
As college football prepares for the final Bowl Championship Series, featuring a Florida State-Auburn championship game, it's easy to see why the coming four-team playoff won't solve all the postseason problems.
On a routine trip to the Piggly Wiggly store in Foley Mitchell Harrison and Betty Ann Williams found something they weren't expecting to need.
In a rare meeting between two of the nation's most storied programs, No. 3 Alabama and No. 11 Oklahoma will face off Jan. 2 in the Sugar Bowl at New Orleans.
Robertsdale police say a man was the victim of a hit and run Saturday, around 30 minutes before the start of the city's annual Christmas parade.
Residents in Creola and Saraland have a lot on the line this week as voters prepare to head to the polls Tuesday, December 10.
A year ago the Auburn tigers finished the season 3 and 9, winless in the SEC. Following the 2012 season, Auburn hired a new head coach, Gus Malzahn – who has changed the script for the Tigers.