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As State Nixes Contract With Domestic Violence Agency, CEO Compensation Investigations To Continue

The state of Florida will no longer contract with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The Coalition’s former president is under investigation over how she was able to pay herself $7.5 million over a three-year period. 

The Miami Herald initially broke the story of Tiffany’s Carr’s compensation. As head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Carr had a salary of $750,000, and received $7.5 million in a three-year period. Much of that came from cashing in an exorbitant amount of "PTO" paid time off money.

The Coalition was the state’s only contractor for sending state money to local domestic violence shelters. That deal came to a formal end Thursday after lawmakers fast-tracked a bill to get rid of the arrangement and Governor Ron DeSantis signed it into law.

“I think the root of it was that there wasn’t enough oversight and accountability this was allowed to happen," he said recently. 

As DeSantis was signing the measure, the House was holding a second round of hearings—lobbing questions at the Coalitions Chief Financial Officer and its Chief Operating Officer. They too  received large amounts of PTO money and bonuses.  Their testimony implied Carr had direct oversight of her own salary.  

“It’s kind of an evolution of reaction," said House Ethics and Integrity Committee Chairman Tom Leek who is overseein the chamber's investigation of the Coalition. " When you first hear about the amounts involved, its shocking. Last time when we heard from the board members, there was a claim of a stunning...ignorance. I think we’re seeing now when we talk to the employees, that the stories don’t match up.

Board members testified they didn’t know what was going on, while the Coalition’s CFO and COO say Carr directed them to spend the money in certain ways. Leek believes there’s still more.

“It’s certainly coincidental that large grants of PTO [paid time off] to Ms. Carr coincided with large pay raises to key management," he told reporters. When asked whether any of the issues rose to the level of criminality, Leek said, "It’s hard to say. It appears to me the employees along with Ms. Carr worked collectively to cheat the system.”  

While Leek hedges on whether the behavior of Carr rises to a criminal level, House Speaker Jose Oliva doesn’t.

“We’re going to do whatever we can in our power to expose the truth of what happened here, and two, to the degree we can, be able to go after those dollars and those people, particularly Ms. Carr who is now avoiding our reach in North Carolina, and find a way to bring her to face the consequences of what she’s done," he said. 

Carr is receiving treatments for a brain tumor in North Carolina. She’s not been subpoena’d by the legislature but she was served by the Inspector General. Leek expects at least one more hearing before the legislature adjourns its business in Tallahassee, but will ask to extend investigations through April.

“Even if we were to stop in April [that] doesn’t mean another investigative body won’t be picking up the investigation or moving forward with a criminal investigation should it be warranted," he said.

The Coalition has been stripped of its ability to distribute funding to domestic violence shelters in the state. That role will now be handled by the Florida Department of Children and Families. 

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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