Jennifer Carroll Resigns after FDLE Questioning
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Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll offered Gov. Rick Scott her resignation on Tuesday after Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers had asked her earlier in the week about her ties with Allied Veterans of the World. AVW is facing a federal criminal investigation.
While it is a nonprofit agency, Allied Veterans of the World runs Internet cafes in Florida -- and some of its leaders, along with Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba, were arrested on racketeering charges earlier in the week. Carroll owned a company that handled public relations for Allied Veterans of the World.
The Scott administration issued a statement on Wednesday morning on Carroll’s resignation.
"Individuals were arrested Tuesday on racketeering and money laundering charges in connection with Allied Veterans of the World's illegal gambling companies,” said Adam Hollingsworth, Scott’s chief of staff. “Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll consulted for Allied Veterans while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010. She was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers Tuesday regarding her work with the company. Lieutenant Governor Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliations with the company from distracting from the administration's important work on behalf of Florida families. She made the right decision for the state and her family."
Carroll’s resignation ends what was once a promising political career. A 20-year veteran of the Navy who rose to the rank of lieutenant commander, Carroll became one of the leading Republicans in Northeast Florida despite two unsuccessful efforts to defeat Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown. Gov. Jeb Bush named Carroll to serve as executive director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs in 2001 and she received appointments from President George W. Bush to serve on the Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission.
When Mike Hogan resigned from the Florida House in 2003, Carroll bounced back from her losses to Brown and overwhelmingly won the seat, making her the first female Republican African-American ever to serve in the Florida Legislature. She quickly moved into the leadership, serving as majority whip and chairing the House Economic Development Policy Committee. Carroll easily won re-election with no opposition in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Had she run again in 2010, she would not have had any opposition. Carroll was reportedly on Gov. Charlie Crist's short list after Mel Martinez resigned from the U.S. Senate in 2009, but the seat eventually went to George LeMieux.
Despite endorsing Attorney General Bill McCollum in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, Scott selected Carroll for the ticket. Carroll offered some geographic balance for Scott, and Republicans hoped she would help the ticket attract female and African-American voters.
Once in office, Carroll offered Scott a number of problems, despite her leadership of Space Florida and her strong fight for veterans’ issues. Carroll was involved in a nasty spat with aide Carletha Cole who was arrested on charges that she illegally leaked taped conversations of Carroll's staff to the media. Cole insisted that she found Carroll in a compromising situation with another woman and the lieutenant governor’s response led to accusations that she was stereotyping lesbians.
With Carroll starting to accumulate baggage and Scott in good shape in Northeast Florida compared to other parts of the state, rumors began to grow that the lieutenant governor would not be on the ticket in 2014. Halfway through their term in office, rumors were buzzing in Tallahassee that Scott would dump Carroll in 2014 and replace her with someone who would better help the governor’s re-election bid.
With Carroll’s resignation, Attorney General Pam Bondi would become governor if Scott dies or is incapacitated until the governor taps a replacement.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.