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Candidate brushes off business inquiries

Republican legislative candidate Dean Beagle says he does not think that a series of civil and criminal investigations into his electronics company should affect his campaign for the state House seat now held by Democrat Chuck Smith. Speaking at a news conference in the Hernando County Republican Party headquarters building Tuesday morning, Beagle emphasized that he plans to disassociate his campaign from his work as president of Innovative Technology Inc. "Innovative Technology is not running for this office," Beagle said. "Dean Beagle is running for this office."

Beagle, 60, has worked for Brooksville's Innovative Technology since 1984 and says that he resigned as president of the company in December to run for office.

Beagle has been retained as a consultant for the company, which installs business telephone systems and manufactures a device that is designed to protect electrical appliances from power surges associated with lightning strikes.

Beagle filed prequalifying papers last week with the Florida Secretary of State's Office that announce his intention to seek the District 47 seat. The seat, which represents all of Hernando and parts of Pasco and Sumter counties, has been held by Smith since 1978. Smith has faced re-election opposition only once in 12 years.

Innovative Technology has been investigated by several state and federal agencies for questionable business practices, including false claims that the surge protectors save electricity. At least one of the investigations was active as recently as August.

But no charges have been filed in Florida against the company or its principals, Beagle and Dennis Wilfong.

"During all of this, Innovative Technology has never been cited," Beagle said. "Innovative Technology has never been charged."

Beagle also said that none of the investigations into the company reached the stage where he would consider them serious.

"If some of us had been subpoenaed and called in and depositions had been taken in regard to lawbreaking, I'd have considered that serious," Beagle said.

Wilfong was charged with selling unregistered securities in Virginia, where he operated a similar company in the late 1970s. He was fined $4,000 and placed on three years' probation before moving to Hernando County in 1980 and founding Innovative Technology.

As recently as August, State Attorney Brad King said in a court hearing in Pinellas County that his office was conducting a criminal investigation into Innovative Technology.

King made the statement on Aug. 3, after Brooksville lawyer Thomas Hogan, who is representing Innovative Technology, subpoenaed records from the state attorney's office in Ocala. Pinellas Circuit Judge David Seth Walker denied Hogan's request for the records after King told the court that his office was in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the company.

Beagle's resume lists degrees from the University of North Dakota and East Texas State University and a doctorate from Pacific Western University in Bellair, Calif., near Los Angeles.

Mary Nelson, registrar at Pacific Western, said Tuesday that Beagle received his doctorate from the university by mail last year. Ms. Nelson described the university as "a non-traditional university," with no campus and only an adjunct faculty that grades tests and dissertations sent in by mail.

On Tuesday, Beagle promised that if he is elected to office he would fight in Tallahassee to gain a larger share of state funds for Hernando County.

"We have to wonder if the 47th District and Hernando County is getting its fair share," Beagle said. "And if not, why not?"