FILE - Florida State Capitol

The Florida State Capitol buildings (Old Capitol in foreground) in Tallahassee.

As CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida in Orlando from 2006-16, Carol Wick managed a shelter that housed an average of 147 domestic violence survivors and their children – most younger than 5 – each night.

One of 42 state-certified domestic violence centers, as much as 70 percent of Harbor House’s $4 million budget came from state and federal funds allocated by the Legislature to the state’s domestic violence contractor, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV).

Over the years, Wick said FCADV CEO Tiffany Carr consolidated her control of how public and private funding was distributed and turned the coalition into a clique.

Wick questioned how state and federal funds were dispersed, how “private dollars went to (FCADV’s) foundation for lavish galas,” and how the coalition sifted administrative fees from grants while also demanding shelters pay fees for “lobbyists.”

“If you challenged them, you were labeled as ‘anti-woman.’ If you stepped out of line, asked too many questions, your funding and your career would be at risk, which I learned the hard way almost four years to this day,” Wick said Monday while testifying before the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee.

Wick was fired without cause or notice by Harbor House at Carr’s direction in January 2016. FCADCV was “roadblock after roadblock, favoritism, retaliation and, what we now know, corruption,” she said.

Wick addressed the House ethics panel Monday during a six-hour hearing consumed by testimony from three subpoenaed FCADV board members

Melody Keeth, Laurel Lynch and Angela Diaz-Vidaillet said they knew little about the exorbitant compensation package they approved year-after-year for Carr.

In addition to Carr’s $761,000 annual salary, she received 465 paid time off (PTO) days in fiscal year 2017 and 620 PTO days in FY18, adding up to more than $7 million in compensation over three years.

The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee continues its inquiry Thursday, when FCADV CFO Patricia Duarte and Chief Operating Officer Sandra Barnett are expected to testify.

The board members and coalition officers are among 13 witnesses the House has subpoenaed. FCADV Vice President Donna Fagan had not been served as of Monday, and Carr, who lives in North Carolina, has avoided being served.

In the wake of 2018 investigations into Carr’s compensation and FCADV irregularities by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, the state’s Department of Children & Families (DCF) demanded documents from FCADV.

After nearly two years of “stonewalling,” the FCADV turned over 100,000 documents in early February, spurring the House to subpoena witnesses and Gov. Ron DeSantis to order state Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel “to determine if there are reasonable grounds to refer the matter for criminal investigation.”

Under a 2012 law, DCF contracts exclusively with FCADV to manage domestic violence shelters. It received $52 million in state and federal funds this year.

House Bill 1087, authorizing DCF to contract with other nonprofits for domestic violence services, was approved by the House, 117-0, on Feb. 20, and the Senate, 40-0, on Wednesday. It is expected to be signed by DeSantis this week.

Wick, who owns Sharity Global, an Orlando consulting firm that advises nonprofits on fundraising and program development, said the $4.2 million in PTO Carr received after resigning in October could have paid for 49 advocate positions.

“Three days of her pay could have paid the annual salary of a domestic violence advocate,” she said.

Wick said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reported 215 domestic violence deaths in 2018, a year in which 47,000 people were “turned away” from shelters.

“Tiffany Carr has endangered countless children, women and men,” she said.

– The Center Square