Lawmakers fast-track votes on domestic violence contract

Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida legislators are speeding to repeal a law that requires the state to contract with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an organization whose leadership has been accused of using millions of taxpayer dollars for salaries and compensation rather than domestic-abuse services.

The House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill (HB 1087) that would eliminate the mandate that the Department of Children and Families contract with the non-profit organization.

The Senate on Wednesday also made procedural moves to take up the issue Feb. 26.

Lawmakers are moving quickly after Gov. Ron DeSantis this week asked the state inspector general to investigate what he called “exorbitant compensation payouts” to Tiffany Carr, the former CEO of the organization.

During a floor session Wednesday, Senate President Bill Galvano announced that Senate Special Counsel Christie Letarte would assist in a separate probe being conducted by the House.

“Misuse of taxpayer dollars is a bad thing always, but it’s especially abhorrent when those tax dollars are to serve vulnerable Floridians who have been the victims of domestic violence,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.

The House last week voted to issue subpoenas to Carr and 13 other former and current staff of the coalition to dig into how Carr was able to receive millions of dollars in compensation for her work at the non-profit.

The House launched an investigation into the organization last year, after the Miami Herald reported discrepancies in Carr’s compensation.

House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee staff director Don Rubottom said last week it appeared that Carr had received $4.2 million in paid time off between July 2013 and October 2019, when she resigned. Additionally, Rubotton said Carr received $2.6 million in “other compensation” between 2016 and 2019.

The coalition, which oversees 42 community-based organizations in Florida that serve victims of domestic violence, received $46.7 million this fiscal year in state and federal funding.