Okaloosa County, FL Tourist Development Council: A Progressive Slush fund

Does your county or parish or borough have a TDC or Tourist Development Council?

The Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council (TDC) collects money in the form of a bed tax which is nothing more than another “progressive slush fund.” A redistribution hub for wealth taken from folks who stay at hotels. Its yet another tax burden on the local hotels, and another layer of regulation and control placed upon the hospitality services industry.

The time has come for the Okaloosa County Florida Commissioners to shut down and disband the TDC, which practices crony capitalism, and redistributes wealth. If you want to increase tourism then abolish the bed tax. Repealing the bed tax will make hotel rooms in Okaloosa County more competitive. Why does eliminating the the bed tax and with it the TDC make for good public policy? Well lets look at the 2013 audit of the Okaloosa County TDC. Here is what the audit found:


Finding No. 1: The Board of County Commissioners (BCC) did not establish annual budgets for expenditures from restricted resources at the level the resources were restricted, or project budgets for each advertising project and marketing campaign, to ensure that available resources were not overspent.

Finding No. 2: The Tourist Development Council (TDC) and TDC subcommittees performed duties that were not of an advisory nature, contrary to law.

Finding No. 3: The TDC did not continuously review all expenditures of tourist development taxes, contrary to law.

Finding No. 4: The County purchased goods and services from companies or organizations that were affiliated with members of the BCC, TDC, or a TDC subcommittee, contrary to law.

Finding No. 5: The BCC had not adopted a fraud response plan, and the County did not perform periodic fraud risk assessments or establish action plans to implement and monitor fraud controls.

Finding No. 6: The County did not perform and document periodic control risk assessments over the activities of collecting, accounting for, and disbursing restricted resources to identify and respond to identified control risks.

Finding No. 7: The County did not consistently follow prescribed policies and procedures relating to the competitive procurement of goods and services, including the selection of two advertising and marketing firms.

Finding No. 8: The County negotiated and entered into contracts that did not contain adequate provisions to effectively protect the County’s interests.

Finding No. 9: The County did not perform an adequate review or pre-audit of invoices submitted by two advertising and marketing firms, including a comparison of payment requests to the provisions of contracts. As a result, the County paid two advertising and marketing firms $12.1 million without obtaining adequate documentation supporting the goods or services received, including payments of several invoices that incorrectly or inadequately described the actual goods or services purchased.

Finding No. 10: The County did not ensure that goods or services acquired through two advertising and marketing firms were competitively procured.

Finding No. 11: The County paid for certain goods and services in advance of their receipt, including certain goods and services acquired through two advertising and marketing firms, contrary to law and the State Constitution. Some services for which the County paid in advance were not subsequently provided.

Finding No. 12: The County did not consistently follow prescribed policies and procedures relating to the approval of purchases, including purchases made through two advertising and marketing firms.

Finding No. 13: The County did not consistently follow prescribed policies and procedures relating to the use of purchasing cards (p-cards), document the receipt of goods and services purchased with p-cards that were not immediately provided to the purchaser, or document the public purpose served by the p-card expenditures.


Finding No. 14: The County needed to enhance its policies and procedures to ensure that travel expenditures were preapproved and adequately documented.


Finding No. 15: The BCC had not adopted written policies and procedures relating to special events grants, and the County did not document that the special events grants were used for allowable purposes or were effective in increasing tourism and the use of lodging facilities.

Finding No. 16: The BCC had not adopted written policies and procedures relating to sponsorships of organizations or events. In addition, the County did not consistently document the purpose for which the sponsorships were provided, that the sponsorships were used for allowable purposes, or that the sponsorships were effective in achieving the purposes for which they were provided.

Finding No. 17: The County paid $2.5 million from tourist development taxes for life-guarding, beach patrol, and beach shuttle services that were not expressly authorized by law.

Finding No. 18: The County paid $117,994 for various goods and services from British Petroleum (BP) grant funds that were, in the past, paid from tourist development taxes, contrary to grant provisions.

Finding No. 19: As part of the Emerald Coast Money Debit Card Program, the County used $207,730 of BP grant funds for purposes that County records did not evidence were allowed by grant provisions.

Finding No. 20: The County overcharged BP $27,063 in connection with medical support services provided, and County records did not adequately support the allow-ability of $385,185 in reimbursements received from BP.


Finding No. 21: The County had not established adequate controls over the use of fuel cards.


Finding No. 22: The County incorrectly classified and recorded certain expenditures in the accounting records, contrary to guidance provided by the Florida Department of Financial Services.


Finding No. 23: The BCC had not adopted written policies and procedures, and the County had not established adequate controls, over the authorization and processing of electronic funds transfers.


Finding No. 24: The County had not established adequate controls over employee access privileges to data and information technology resources.


Finding No. 25: The County did not record minutes of a TDC and TDC subcommittee meeting, contrary to law. In addition, the minutes of the remaining meetings were not signed or otherwise designated to indicate the minutes were the official minutes approved by the TDC or TDC subcommittees. Who was running this redistribution of wealth slush fund when these problems were identified?


A review or test of 45 purchases, totaling $1.2 million and funded from tourist development taxes or BP grant funds, disclosed 3 purchases (6.7 percent), totaling $53,730, that were not approved by one or more required employees, contrary to County purchasing policies and procedures. These payments included a $49,500 payment for production services at beach concerts, a $2,430 payment for promotional golf caps, and an $1,800 payment for two tables of ten people at a dinner and silent auction for a charitable organization.

What we have is a government controlled slush fund used to redistribute the taxpayers hard earned cash. The above listed 25 reasons should be enough to abolish the TDC, which was created in 1986.

I moved to Florida in 1982 and I learned all I needed to know about Florida from friends and by word of mouth. I did not need a TDC to bring me to Florida.

Its time to disband the TDC, abolish the bed tax and get rid of these incredulous burden’s of paper work and wealth redistribution. Lets turn Florida into an example of lower taxes, less government and ever more growth. As for the TDC, it needs to take a long walk off a short turtle protected pier.