Federal prosecutors eye embattled coalition

Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The investigation into the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s potential misuse of public funds has been referred to federal prosecutors, Melinda Miguel, the state’s chief inspector general, told lawmakers on Thursday.

Miguel said documents from the state’s preliminary investigation have been turned over to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida. She added her office is “coordinating” with the U.S. Department of Justice on the probe.

House Public Integrity & Ethics Chairman Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, also said the coalition has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, a move he called “a positive sign that we are moving closer to that point at which criminal charges could be levied.”

The involvement of federal prosecutors is the latest move in a months-long investigation into the coalition and its former chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, who over a three-year period received $7.5 million in compensation.

The House made several attempts to subpoena Carr -- using Twitter, mail and in-person visits to her North Carolina and Port St. Joe homes -- to summon her to testify at a Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meeting on Thursday, but she did not show up. After she did not appear, the full House voted to request that she “show cause” as to why she should not be held in contempt by the House.

While lawmakers are in session, the House has the authority to sanction people found to be in contempt of the House, Leek said. The legislative session was scheduled to end Friday, but it will run overtime because of delays in finalizing a budget. Leek added the Carr issue could also be dealt with in a special session.

“We are blazing new territory here, but the sanctions can be monetary and can also be imprisonment,” Leek said, adding that the House has never voted to imprison anyone for failing to comply with a subpoena.

In addition to the House investigation, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration and Attorney General Ashley Moody have filed lawsuits against Carr and the coalition.

The state accused the coalition and Carr of misusing public funds and is seeking to be repaid.