DCF files lawsuit against troubled domestic violence agency
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 10/15/19-Chad Poppell, secretary of the Department of Children and Families, speaks during the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meeting, Tuesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

FLAPOL101519CH039
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence has been under fire for months for alleged monetary mishandlings.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) launched a lawsuit Wednesday against its once-sole-source provider of domestic violence services alleging several wrongdoings on the part of the agency and its former CEO.

The allegations against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) include breaking its contract, its fiduciary duty and its implied duty of good faith. As for former CEO Tiffany Carr, the lawsuit levels fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and civil conspiracy accusations.

Gov. Ron DeSantis called the revelations made in concurrent investigations alarming and disturbing in a press release

“The Coalition’s deliberate abuse of state dollars, inexcusable lack of transparency and calculated breach of public trust is untenable,” he said. “We will continue with our efforts to ensure those involved are held accountable for their actions, while also ensuring that survivors are being provided with proper care and support.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a separate complaint and motion Wednesday in the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County.

FCADV has been under fire for months starting with concerns former Carr received $761,000 in annual salary first reported by the Miami Herald. But recent revelations showed she received more than $7 million in compensation over three years.

The suit names Carr and 11 others with the coalition, including CFO Patricia Duarte and Chief Operating Officer Sandra Barnett as defendants. DCF is asking for at least $30,000 for each of the 51 count against the defendants, an amount their insurance may not cover.

“I am sincerely appreciative of the support DCF has received from the Governor and the Legislature as we worked to expose the fiscal irresponsibility that infiltrated FCADV under Tiffany Carr’s leadership,” DCF Secretary Chad Poppell said. “We will ensure all who knowingly complied answer for their actions.”

After testimony from Duarte and Barnett last week, House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee Chair Tom Leek pointed out that management’s raises and bonuses coincided with Carr’s bloated earnings.

“It appears to me that the employees along with Ms. Carr worked collectively to cheat the system, to make it so that they could bonus themselves up or Ms. Carr up,” Leek said.

As for whether the committee had uncovered criminal activity, he pointed to the disparity between testimony from board chairs and later testimony from executive employees.

“Their statements are inconsistent. We see those inconsistencies. It always makes you wonder whether there’s criminality involved or not,” Leek said.

While the committee heard testimony last week, DeSantis signed a bill (HB 1087) stripping the coalition as DCF’s sole-source entity for domestic violence services. With his signature, that bill immediately became law.

“I am confident that the legal action taken by Gov. DeSantis will serve as a message that Florida will not stand for this gross abuse of power,” said Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, the bill’s author.  “As this lawsuit goes through its progression, I hope we will soon be able to get the much-needed dollars for services back to the victims of domestic violence.”

Sen. Aaron Bean spearheaded the effort in the Senate.

“Today we stand united against a very sad chapter of exploitation in our state,” he said. “To betray the public’s trust will not come without consequences. I appreciate the Governor’s resolve to bring this injustice to the light as well as closure to the victims it has affected.”

House Speaker José Oliva last week called the revelations disturbing, scandalous and unprecedented. But while Carr has been subpoenaed, he said, she is avoiding the state’s reach by staying in one of her North Carolina homes.

“I sincerely hope, and we are going to do everything within our power — one, to fully expose the truth of what has happened here, and two, to the degree that we can — to be able to go after those dollars and those people, particularly Ms. Carr … and find a way to bring her to have to face the consequences of what she’s done,” Oliva said.

The Miami Herald last year reported that FCADV was stonewalling investigators reviewing Carr’s bloated salary. In 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration began questioning the nonprofit about its finances in 2018.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


2 comments

  • Michael O'Rourke

    March 6, 2020 at 9:48 am

    This has been going on for a long time. Why is DCF now patting themselves on the back as if they stopped this fiscal abuse or even vetted this organization properly before it occurred?

    This is the perfect example of crony corruption. Who made this organization the “sole-source entity” for domestic violence?

    This makes me so mad.

  • Bendeguz79

    March 8, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Will another scandal come from the fact that the State of Florida is unable to serve a subpoena to Carr in another US State?
    That also sounds fishy !!!

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704