TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Directors at the majority of the state’s domestic violence shelters are calling for the resignation of the statewide board that administers their funding after documents raised questions about the CEO’s compensation.
Writing they are shocked and concerned, 26 domestic violence center directors are demanding the resignations of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence board of directors.
Over a three-year span, the board paid Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence CEO Tiffany Carr $7.5 million. Carr has since resigned.
Florida law requires membership in the coalition to receive state funding, but the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence was also requiring local centers to return a portion of its annual budget to a fund not required by law.
“What was silent in the statute was whether there had to be a payment for membership status,” said Meg Baldwin, with Refuge House.
Each of the 42 shelters was required to pay annual dues based on the funding it received from the state through the coalition.
“I have been concerned about the implication that you somehow have to pay to be eligible for public funding,” Baldwin said.
In the case of the Refuge House, which serves eight North Florida counties, the annual dues were roughly equal to 10% of what the shelter received each month from the state.
“I don’t know if it was illegal, but it is against federal policy, it is against state policy and it’s just plain wrong that domestic violence centers have to pay to play,” said state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.
Gov. Ron DeSantis last week asked his inspector general, Melinda Miguel, to investigate the agency’s “exorbitant compensation payouts” and “abuse of state dollars” to determine if any criminal wrongdoing has occurred. The House also voted to subpoena 14 people who have worked at the agency.
“On its face, it’s not really clear. It’s not clear yet. We’ve not received those records,” Miguel said.
The dues payments did not come from state funds, but money raised locally.
In the case of the North Florida center, it paid $10,000 in annual dues while receiving about $100,000 a month in state funding.
Last year, the state sent more than $46 million through the coalition.