State Politics

Ex-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll faces ethics charge over botched disclosures

Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll faces two counts of violating state ethics laws for failing to disclose income from a suspect veterans’ charity that led to her political downfall two years ago.

The Commission on Ethics found probable cause that Carroll filed inaccurate financial disclosure statements twice in 2011 that failed to disclose $72,000 in income for public relations work for Allied Veterans of the World in 2010. The group was targeted by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office two years ago in an investigation of illegal gambling activity at storefront internet cafes.

The ethics commission dismissed two other allegations that Carroll’s public relations work for Allied Veterans were a conflict of interest and that the payments influenced her votes. At the time Carroll worked for Allied Veterans, she was a Republican state House member from Clay County.

Carroll issued a statement in which she said she would not fight the charges. In a similar case, the ethics commission recommended a $300 fine for each violation.

“It is no secret that financial disclosures I filed in 2010 were incorrect; not intentionally,” Carroll said. “However, once errors were found, it was immediately corrected. This is not anything particular to me. Many other elected officials have had to file corrections to their financial disclosures once errors were found.”

The investigation of Carroll began after the ethics agency received a referral letter last year from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which concluded that Carroll did not violate any criminal laws. The FDLE report noted that Carroll did not initially report the Allied Veterans income on her tax return, but later filed an amended return including it.

FDLE’s investigation of Carroll resulted in her abrupt and forced resignation from office by Gov. Rick Scott’s aides on March 12, 2013.

Carroll, a retired lieutenant commander in the Navy, was considered a rising star in Florida politics when Scott chose her as his running mate in 2010. The ethics commission investigation said she orally resigned from Allied Veterans after Scott chose her as his running mate, but bank records showed she continued to receive payments of $6,000 a month through November 2010.

In the ethics commission’s report, Allied Veterans lobbyists Carlos Cruz and Nick Iarossi said they learned about Carroll’s work for Allied Veterans after she agreed to sponsor a bill in the 2010 session to tighten regulations of internet cafes to assure the public that they were operating legally.

The report said Cruz and Iarossi told Allied Veterans attorney Kelly Mathis that Carroll’s ties to Allied Veterans “did not look good” and could lead to “a bad newspaper article.”

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.

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