After lengthy delay, state releases spending records of Matt Gaetz associate Halsey Beshears

News 6 requested records in April

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 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. (FHOR)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s business licensing agency released financial documents Thursday related to its former secretary more than three months after News 6 sought them under a public records request.

News 6 is now reviewing the expense reports and will report any noteworthy information contained within them.

Halsey Beshears was appointed secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, or DBPR, by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January 2019.

[TRENDING: Disturbing details in stabbing of Florida teen | Officer Raynor has ‘long road ahead’ | PICS: Lightning strikes near Florida beach]

Beshears unexpectedly resigned from the 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.

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. News organizations routinely request financial records from government officials to see how taxpayer funds are spent.

After acknowledging News 6′s public records request April 15, DBPR officials failed to respond to nine email messages and a voicemail seeking information about when the records would be released.

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.

Florida law does not specify how quickly state 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.

News 6 published a report on the withheld records July 7.

More than one week later, DBPR produced 61 pages of expense reports and associated documents, including hotel receipts for agency-related travel.  The documents contained only minimal redactions to hide financial account numbers and other information exempt from public release under Florida law.


About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.