Ethics Panel: Former Florida Lt. Gov. Carroll Misreported Income
The Florida Commission on Ethics has found probable cause that former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll did not properly report income from consulting work that led to her 2013 resignation, but it cleared Carroll of potentially more-serious allegations regarding her dealings with Allied Veterans of the World.
In response, Carroll said the decision vindicated her, and she called again for Gov. Rick Scott to publicly apologize for pushing her out of office in the wake of an illegal gambling probe.
Carroll resigned two years ago amid revelations that a company she co-owned, 3N. & J.C. Corporation, provided consulting services for Allied Veterans of the World, the entity at the center of an investigation into illegal gambling and other crimes in the Internet cafe industry. Carroll was never charged in connection with the case and has denied any wrongdoing.
But she concedes, as the ethics commission found, that she filed inaccurate financial disclosures in 2010. Carroll initially reported receiving less than $1,000 in income from her consulting company, rather than the $16,047 of net income that Carroll earned through 3N. & J.C. that year.
"I do not intend to challenge the ethics committee, their probable cause is based on the fact that I did file a report that was incorrect," Carroll said in a written statement following the commission's decision. "I believe they will find that this was not intentional. If they find a reason to fine me for that, so be it."
If it decides Carroll broke the law, the commission would make a recommendation to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, on what punishment should be meted out to the former lieutenant governor, because she was a member of the House at the time of the incident.
Carroll's statement, however, also pulled no punches about other high-ranking Republican officials. She noted that Attorney General Pam Bondi once had to correct financial disclosures. And Carroll blasted Scott for pushing her out of office following the revelations about her past work for Allied Veterans of the World.
"What I would like is a public apology from Governor Scott for his knee jerk reaction to ask for my resignation where no probable cause or evidence presented itself to implicate me to the issues with Allied Veterans," Carroll said.
Indeed, lawyer Melody Hadley --- an "advocate" for the commission --- found no probable cause to think that Carroll's relationship with Allied Veterans created a conflict of interest, or that she was paid to influence her official actions.
"As shown by prior opinions, hiring a legislator for consulting work is not out of the ordinary," Hadley wrote. "(Carroll) had credentials that seem to support AVOTW's hiring of her and there is evidence of (Carroll) performing public relations work for AVOTW."
State investigators also looked into the role Carroll's legislative office played in the filing of gambling legislation that might have benefited Allied Veterans. Carroll contends that the bill was mistakenly filed by an aide who didn't get final approval from Carroll, and that Carroll thought it was a "shell bill" that did not include actual language.
The bill was quickly withdrawn, before it was formally introduced.
Hadley wrote that Carroll's "involvement with the filing of HB 1185 was a cause for concern but for the majority of the testimony saying that it was an accident and that there is no evidence that she participated in drafting it."
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Photo credit: "Jennifer Carroll" by Gage Skidmore used under Creative Commons license.