TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida will receive $5 million in a settlement with a nonprofit domestic violence agency and its former CEO, who were sued over exorbitant pay the state said should have gone to domestic abuse shelters, Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Thursday.
The state investigated the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence after learning president and CEO Tiffany Carr received $7.5 million in compensation, much if it in paid time off, for the three years before she resigned in November 2019.
“Millions of dollars … should have originally gone to victims of domestic violence and not officers, directors and certainly not Tiffany Carr for their own personal gain,” Moody said at a news conference in Orlando.
Carr stacked the nonprofit’s board of directors, which then approved bonuses, raises and paid time off with unspent money that should have been returned to the state at the end of the fiscal year, Moody said.
Carr’s attorney said that she didn’t break any laws, the coalition was audited each year and Carr was unfairly targeted by the state.
“The Attorney General said in court Ms. Carr never lied to anyone and that the Board had complete authority to award whatever amount of compensation it deemed appropriate. So to now claim Ms. Carr is ‘corrupt’ or that she ’misrepresented’ anything is both unsubstantiated and unfair,” lawyer Christopher Kise said an email.
Carr will personally pay $2.1 million toward the settlement. Kise also noted that the growth in the coalition’s budget grew from a few million a year to $70 million under Carr’s leadership and the number of shelter nights made available to victims nearly tripled.
“There was a disagreement about the amount of compensation Ms. Carr received. That dispute has been resolved. Further character assassination is contrary to the good faith nature of the parties’ agreement,” Kise said.
Moody, though, said that Carr tried to hide the excessive pay by accruing it in paid time off.
“Some of this paid time off was so excessive that when it was accrued and rolled over, it amounted to millions of dollars when it was ultimately redeemed,” Moody said. “In one year Tiffany Carr received 360 days of paid time off … and in one year it was 465 days of paid time off.”
Until February 2020, state law established the coalition as the only agency that can pass government money on to groups that help domestic violence victims. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill stripping the coalition of that special status.
“We don’t want to see this repeated,” said DeSantis, who appeared with Moody at the news conference. “You’ve got to have accountability and transparency. That was obviously lacking with this organization for many, many years.”
The money recovered from the settlement will be distributed to domestic violence centers. Moody said authorities are still looking into criminal charges.