In a new book about her two years as Florida’s lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll paints a grim picture: ignored by Gov. Rick Scott, belittled by his back-biting staff and forced to resign from office for no reason.
Carroll, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and former state representative, was the first black woman lieutenant governor of Florida. She said she wrote the 173-page book to inspire others to overcome adversity and to believe in the power of family, friends and prayer.
Carroll writes that Scott showed no interest in reaching out to black and Hispanic voters in 2010, so she did over his campaign’s objections. During Scott’s inaugural celebration, she writes, “I was treated like an unwanted stepchild.” And when she wanted to talk to the governor, she said, she was told to ask for an appointment with his scheduler.
As a candidate and upon taking office, Scott raved about Carroll. But their relationship soon soured and Scott’s top aides forced her to resign on March 12, 2013, after law enforcement agents interrogated Carroll about past public relations work for Allied Veterans of the World, a group linked to Internet cafes that were closed after investigators uncovered widespread fraud.
Carroll was not charged with wrongdoing and writes of her feelings of humiliation when Scott’s aides “ambushed” her with a terse resignation letter they forced her to sign. “I felt betrayed,” she writes.
Carroll describes Scott as overly controlled by his staff and lacking in a personal touch, recalling that he showed no concern after she fainted and struck her head on the floor at a sweltering church.
“Clearly, something was missing there, some ability to make personal connections that he just didn’t have,” Carroll said.
Working hand-in-hand with black political consultant Clarence McKee in the 2010 campaign, Carroll said she built a Republican outreach plan to black voters who vote reliably Democratic, using newspapers, radio and phone calls. Despite the campaign’s objections, she attended a forum in Miami hosted by Bishop Victor Curry, a radio host and prominent voice in Miami’s black community.
“The campaign didn’t want it, but I did it anyway,” she writes.
As a result, Carroll writes, Scott got 6 percent of the African-American vote, according to 2010 exit polls, and if she had not directed a “minority stealth” campaign, “Scott would have lost the election.”
McKee, a Scott supporter, said in an interview that Carroll’s account was true and that she pushed for more outreach to Jewish voters in Broward and Palm Beach counties in the final weeks of the 2010 race, in which Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink by fewer than 62,000 votes.
How Carroll became Scott’s running mate was surprising, she recalled. What she didn’t know was that few others were interested in the job.
Carroll said she was called to a meeting in Miami in 2010 by Scott’s campaign manager, Susie Wiles, where two lawyers asked her a series of questions. Then she and Scott met and talked, and he quickly phoned her and asked her to join the ticket.
“I was still wondering why he had chosen me. He never gave me a real answer to that question,” Carroll writes. “I wasn’t one of the good old boys, and he was a millionaire with his own plane. Why me?”
Wiles said that account was accurate. A longtime friend of Carroll’s, Wiles said she didn’t think the book would damage Scott’s re-election prospects.
“I have a negative view — as I think most people do — of people who do these kiss-and-tell books after they have been trusted as part of the inner circle,” Wiles said.
Carroll’s book contains no new bombshells, and many of the incidents she describes were reported by the Florida media at the time. But few in Scott’s orbit escape Carroll’s wrath.
She claims that Scott’s former chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, blocked access to the governor and would “undermine or get rid of people who didn’t go along with him,” and that his replacement, Adam Hollingsworth, was “even more ruthless” and lower-level staffers cowered in his presence.
Carroll, a stylish dresser, wrote that when she wore designer pants and boots for an event at the Governor’s Mansion, Hollingsworth ordered her to change clothes, and told her to scrap a scheduled birthday party in 2012 because a hurricane was approaching the state and Scott had canceled public events.
“It was just so silly,” Carroll writes.
Carroll writes that she spent months asking superiors for a travel budget before she got one, but after security costs in her first year approached $300,000, Scott’s staff limited her travel and assigned her a lower-ranking state trooper than previous lieutenant governors had.
Scott’s campaign declined to address Carroll’s specific allegations. Spokeswoman Jackie Schutz issued a statement that said Carroll “made the right decision for her family by resigning.”
Carroll has a new career as a political commentator for WJXT Channel 4, a Jacksonville TV station, and she planned to analyzeTuesday’s primary night election results.