(The Center Square) – One-third of $1.5 million in frozen assets belonging to the embattled nonprofit that formerly was the state’s exclusive domestic violence services provider has been turned over to a court-appointed receiver.
Leon County Circuit Judge Ronald Flury granted Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s motion to give attorney Mark Healy, executive vice president of Jacksonville-based Michael Moecker & Associates, access to $500,000 to pay creditors and support victims’ services across the state.
The remaining $1 million will be allocated to pay claims against the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation (FCADV) filed by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the state’s 42 certified domestic violence centers.
Flury’s ruling last week was in response to Moody’s March motion to freeze FCADV’s assets after a House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee investigation into alleged misappropriation of funds and private donations by the foundation’s leadership, most notably former CEO Tiffany Carr.
That on-going probe, chaired by Rep. Tom Leek, R-Daytona Beach, and spurred by reports by the Miami Herald and other media outlets, compelled lawmakers to unanimously pass House Bill 1087, authorizing DCF to hire other nonprofits after Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all FCADV contracts be severed.
Carr was among 13 former and current FCADV board members and staff subpoenaed to testify before the House committee in February to answer questions about how it spent its $50 million in annual budgets.
During testimony before the panel, FCADV officers Patricia Duarte and Sandra Barnett testified that Carr funneled “unearned money” – unspent DCF grants – into paid-time-off (PTO) days for her and select staff.
When she resigned from her $761,000-a-year position in early November, Carr cashed in 465 PTO days from fiscal year 2017 and 620 from fiscal 2018, worth nearly $4.3 million, meaning she was paid about $7.5 million during a three-year span.
DCF filed a 77-page, 51-count lawsuit against FCADV, seven board members and five executive staff, including Carr, on March 3.
The next day, Moody sued to freeze FCADV assets and place the coalition and its foundation into receivership under Healy.
Flury’s “ruling will help ensure funds contributed by donors will be used to support the mission of the FCADV as intended,” Moody said. “Furthermore, the ruling advances our fight to hold former CEO Tiffany Carr accountable for the misappropriation of millions of dollars provided to the FCADV to help victims of domestic violence. We will continue to litigate this case to ensure justice is served.”
Carr has dodged subpoenas to appear before the committee, even one served via Twitter, and has remained silent and presumably bunkered in her $2 million North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains home.
Carr has an attorney – Chris Kise, of Tallahassee-based Foley & Lardner LLP – who is no stranger to high-profile legal battles, nor high-profile Florida political power brokers.
Among his clients: Tallahassee lobbyist Adam Corey and Venezuelan Attorney General Reinaldo Muñoz Pedroza.
During the 2018 gubernatorial race between DeSantis and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor was being investigated over allegations he received illicit gifts from Corey.
Kise turned over documents to investigators shortly before the election, which DeSantis won by less than a half-percent, that later resulted in Gillum being fined $5,000.
Kise, a former state solicitor who served on Gov. Rick Scott’s and DeSantis’ transition teams, raised eyebrows when he agreed to represent Pedroza, a key figure in Venezuela dictator Nicolás Maduro’s regime, to legally challenge U.S. sanctions in American courts.
In a 12-page response to the Moody’s request for a receiver to assume control of FCADV, Kise said, “The entire debate has spun out of control, with a media frenzy fueling speculation, outrage, a ‘rush to judgment’ and a ‘mob rule’ mentality.”