TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s business licensing agency has failed to produce financial documents related to its former secretary, Halsey Beshears, following a public records request submitted by News 6 nearly three months ago.
Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, or DBPR, has not explained why spending records have not yet been released. The agency previously indicated the request was undergoing a legal review, but it is unclear why such a review is necessary and whether it is complete.
Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Beshears as DBPR secretary in January 2019, calling him a “champion for deregulation.”
Beshears unexpectedly resigned from his position in January 2021, citing health issues.
According to Politico, Beshears traveled to the Bahamas with Congressman Matt Gaetz in September 2018, just months before Beshears was named DBPR secretary. At the time, Beshears was serving in the Florida legislature.
That Bahamas trip is now being scrutinized by federal investigators as part of its probe into possible sex trafficking, according to CBS News.
Gaetz and Beshears have not been charged with any crimes.
Beshears did not immediately respond to emails from News 6 seeking comment for this story, and phone numbers once associated with him have been disconnected.
Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The two Republicans from Florida’s Panhandle served together in the Florida House of Representatives prior to Gaetz being elected to Congress in 2016.
News 6 submitted a public records request to DBPR in April seeking financial statements for credit cards and any other spending accounts assigned to Beshears while he served as secretary.
Such financial documents are considered public records under Florida law and must be made available to any citizen who requests to see them.
There is no indication that Beshears improperly used state money, and News 6 has not yet confirmed whether Beshears ever had access to state-issued credit cards or spending accounts.
News organizations routinely request financial records from government officials to see how taxpayer funds are spent.
Florida law does not specify how quickly government officials must produce such public records, but state agencies are required to “respond to such requests in good faith,” according to Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Manual.
After acknowledging the records request from News 6 for the former secretary’s financial records on April 15, the agency has failed to respond to nine email messages from News 6 seeking information about when the records will be released, including the most recent sent July 7.
During a phone call to DBPR’s communications office in late June, an agency spokesperson indicated the records were undergoing a legal review prior to release.
More than a week later, DBPR still had not released the financial records, nor had the agency explained why it had not yet produced the documents.