by: Jenna Bourne, Action News Jax Updated:
Florida State Sen. Aaron Bean helped his former campaign manager’s wife score a $1 million appropriation for her project.
It’s a Nassau County project that was buried in Florida State University’s budget.
The project is called CELPHIE, and it’s a way to digitally self-screen for mental health issues.
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The program has been pushed for development by Florida Psychological Associates CEO Dr. Catherine Drew, who is the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew.
John Drew has a longstanding relationship with Bean, and served as Bean’s campaign manager nearly two decades ago.
Bean said his support for CELPHIE is based on its merit, not their relationship.
“Well, I look at the program itself,” Bean said.
Bean’s original attempt to pass $100,000 in funding to expand the CELPHIE program through the state budget process failed.
After that, he called FSU’s president about CELPHIE.
A $1 million dollar appropriation for the project appeared in the budget of FSU’s medical school.
Florida Psychological Associates marketing consultant John Daigle said that appropriation was the work of lobbyists.
FSU spokesperson Browning Brooks told Action News Jax that the university did not ask for the appropriation and knew nothing about the project until Bean called.
A source forwarded Action News Jax an email from John Drew that said, “I am truly looking forward to this partnership and FINALY (sic) everyone making money together from a product that will help the community.”
Bean denied that this was a reference to him profiting off CELPHIE’s development.
“There was insinuation that I’ve received payment or I’ve received money from this company and I never have, nor do I intend to ever receive any money. I believe in the program. That’s what we do,” said Bean.
Naples Daily News was the first to publish a story questioning the connection. Their source for the emails between Bean and the Drews appears to be a record request by Carlos Slay, who was John Drew’s defeated opponent for the tax collector spot.
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