State ethics panel clears Aaron Bean in budget controversy

in Peter by

It’s a swing and a miss for The Naples Daily News and its man in Tallahassee, Arek Sarkissian, as state ethics commissioners tossed out a case against Sen. Aaron Bean stemming from his hand in a $1 million special appropriation.

The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause to believe that Senator Bean misused his position to secure an appropriation in the State budget for a business venture in which he was personally involved, and dismissed the allegation,” according to a Wednesday press release.

The claim, according to a March exposé penned by Capitol reporter Sarkissian, who’s edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner and Manny Garcia hire Brett Blackledge:

“Bean helped secure a $1 million special appropriation in this year’s budget for an early mental health screening program run by Catherine Drew, the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew. Bean and John Drew have been friends for more than a decade and have supported each other politically.”

But wait, there’s more.

The Commission also “voted to dismiss an allegation that he had a voting conflict when he voted to approve a line item appropriation for the business venture,” according to the release.

And “no probable cause was found to believe that the Senator misused his position to ask a fellow legislator to include a request for the business appropriation in the Florida State University budget.”

Why, the board even cleared Bean of “misus(ing) his position to receive a $7.76 reimbursement for mileage.”

Sarkissian was tipped to the salacious story by Carlos Slay, a self-styled “public advocate” who lost a contentious race to Drew.

“Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew and State Senator Aaron Bean are childhood friends. The e-mail obtained through a records request show that John Drew and State Senator Aaron Bean were working on creating a business opportunity that would allow each of them to make money,” Slay wrote, in emails he sent to this outlet in October.

He then filed the ethics complaint.

We didn’t bite then. Seems we called it right.

As for Sarkissian: Sorry, no investigative reporting award for you on this one.

As The Wire’s Omar Little said: “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.