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  1. Opinion

We CEOs of Tampa Bay domestic violence centers are shocked by the scandal at Florida Coalition

Here’s what readers are saying in Tuesday’s letters to the editor
In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, file photo, Tiffany Carr, executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, speaks at a news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush, background right, to announce a public awareness campaign designed to prevent disaster-related domestic violence, in Tallahassee, Fla. On Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO, Carr, had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File) [PHIL COALE  |  AP]
In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, file photo, Tiffany Carr, executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, speaks at a news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush, background right, to announce a public awareness campaign designed to prevent disaster-related domestic violence, in Tallahassee, Fla. On Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO, Carr, had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File) [PHIL COALE | AP]

CEO $7.5 million pay shocked us

How a Florida nonprofit paid $7.5M to its CEO: The Tiffany Carr story | Feb. 16

Around the state a few days ago, many domestic violence center leaders, including the three of us, watched in horror as the Florida House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee detailed a gross mishandling of funds by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The ongoing investigation into the state program revealed exorbitant compensation payouts, abuse of state dollars, withholding of information and breach of public trust.

Although CASA, Sunrise of Pasco County and The Spring of Tampa Bay all receive state and federal funding through the Florida Coalition, we are each certified by the Department of Children and Families, the agency now tasked to oversee state funding for Florida’s domestic violence centers.

There were many details brought to light that we find unconscionable and shocking, including the former CEO accepting $7.5 million in compensation over her final three years of tenure at the Florida Coalition, and those tasked with oversight responsibility allowing this to happen by approving these payouts. We are so thankful to the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times for bringing this story to light, and the Florida Legislature for opening an investigation; otherwise, we might never have known about the corruption within the leadership of the Florida Coalition.

While this creates chaos for us and the other ethically run and transparent centers working in the trenches to keep survivors safe and help them eventually thrive, we pledge to you that we and our senior leadership and our boards of directors will work hard to ensure we continue to serve thousands of survivors in our area with the robust array of programs and services they deserve from our local community — that we collectively refer to as the “Heart of Tampa Bay.”

Lariana Forsythe, Kelly Sinn and Mindy Murphy

The writers are the CEOs of CASA in St. Petersburg, Sunrise in Pasco County and The Spring in Hillsborough.

Where was the oversight?

How a Florida nonprofit paid $7.5M to its CEO: The Tiffany Carr story | Feb. 16

In this excellent story about the scandal at the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one piece is missing in determining blame: the role of the Department of Children and Families in monitoring a sole source contract. As a former CEO of a non-profit with a sole source state contract — not Florida — I am acutely aware of standards a government agency can set for contractors. My budget, including staff salaries and benefits, was subject to an annual state-reviewed audit. Executive salaries were capped, and each fiscal year we had to formally apply for renewal of our contract. Our deliverables were monitored, and we had to submit action plans for any standards not met. Why was the DCF so negligent in monitoring the coalition’s budget and outcomes? Do they do a better job of holding other agencies with sole source contracts accountable? These questions must be answered.

Richard Horowitz, Palm Harbor

Not in the public interest

Your face can’t hide from cops | Feb. 16

A dozen Florida law enforcement agencies have tried out or bought access to the facial recognition system from a little-known company called Clearview AI. [Shutterstock]

In using a private organization’s facial recognition software and database, law enforcement departments — and the public which they serve — are being asked to trust that a privately held company will be able to keep all searches confidential, ensure that the data is not modified intentionally or by mistake and that the data is only made available to authorized users. No system is bulletproof. While I am all for helping law enforcement fight crime, the use of a private organization to do so is not in the public’s best interest.

Mark Khan, Tampa

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