TALLAHASSEE — In a scene that resembled closed-door Congressional hearings, the fourth floor of the Florida Capitol’s House Office Building swarmed with television cameras and reporters Monday.
Everyone was waiting to catch a glimpse of what was going on inside Room 414, where board members of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence started giving depositions under oath to the governor’s inspector general at around 7:30 a.m.
The coalition, the clearinghouse for all state and federal domestic violence funds in Florida, has recently come under fire after it was revealed that its longtime chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, was paid more than $7.5 million over three years. The agency manages about $52 million annually in state and federal government funds that goes to 42 domestic violence centers that serve as emergency shelters for victims of domestic abuse.
The agency is nearly 99% funded by state and federal money, and although the Florida Department of Children and Families operates as the main oversight body for the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, records show that members of the board of directors, who were appointed by Carr, served as the compensation committee.
Four women on the committee, considered to be part of Carr’s tight-knit group of friends, were subpoenaed last week by lawmakers to disclose, among other things, information about their involvement in the excessive compensation package awarded to Carr.
Board members Melody Keeth, of Palm Bay and Laurel Lynch, of Bradenton shuffled in and out of the conference room, walking quickly with their eyes looking at the floor. Angela Diaz-Vidaillet, of Miami, and Shandra Fernandez-Kvam, of Tallahassee are also set to appear Monday morning.
Keeth, who was recently ousted from the domestic violence center she ran, declined to speak with reporters.
Committee members were escorted by their attorneys to take bathroom breaks, and skirted reporters while rushing to the elevators after their depositions were finished.
After the four board members give depositions in the morning, the House Committee on Public Integrity and Ethics will question Sandy Barnett, chief operating officer of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Patricia Duarte, chief financial officer, during a five-hour hearing in the afternoon. The committee has been asked to investigate the $7.5 million salary package awarded to the coalition’s long-time CEO over three years.
During the hearing, the committee will also grill 10 board members, most of them current and former domestic violence center directors, who could face criminal charges stemming from allegations of financial abuse at the publicly-funded agency.
Carr herself was subpoenaed by the inspector general, but not for her appearance. She was served in her North Carolina home with a subpoena to produce information relevant to the investigation.
Two members of Congress have also asked for a federal probe. On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that requires all state agencies to review any single-source contracts that are given protected status in state statute.