Ex-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll felt ‘betrayed’ by Rick Scott, waits for an apology

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Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is waiting for an apology that may never come.

While Gov. Rick Scott celebrates his re-election kickoff, his former No.2 told Jim Schoettler of the Florida Times-Union she feels cheated by the governor and his inner circle for abandoning her over a year ago, when they forced Carroll to resign.

It is Carroll’s first interview with the Times-Union since leaving office in March 2013.

Scott’s chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth and the governor’s general counsel called for her immediate resignation after agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement questioned Carroll about public relations work her firm performed for Allied Veterans of the World.

It was the same day police arrested 57 people in an Internet café gambling ring tied to Allied.

According to Carroll, Hollingsworth said her continued connection to Scott would weaken his legislative efforts.

She added that recently released FDLE documents prove there was no wrongdoing; the subject of $24,000 she failed to report on federal taxes and other financial disclosure forms was only an accounting oversight, one that she quickly fixed during the investigation.

As for the financial disclosures, the FDLE referred the matter to the state ethics commission for review.

“I felt so betrayed,” Carroll told Schoettler. “I felt that the loyalty that I gave I didn’t receive in return.”

Carroll, a former Navy lieutenant commander, maintains she did nothing wrong, adding she was pressured to sign a resignation letter, as a way to honor the “chain of command.”

“Who wants to work with a senior that doesn’t want you there?” Carroll said.

For unknown reasons, the Clay County Republican felt “set up,” and regrets leaving the job she held since the 2010 election. Scott never talked with her about the resignation request, and they have not spoken since.

Messages to Scott’s press office went unanswered, and Hollingsworth did not return reporter’s calls or texts. Scott’s press secretary, John Tupps, sent an email expressing appreciation for Carroll’s public service — as someone elected five times to the Florida House.

“Jennifer Carroll made the right decision for her family by resigning,” Tupps wrote in a brief e-mail.

During the interview at the Fleming Island Golf Club clubhouse, Carroll was excited about her upcoming biography, scheduled for released on her birthday, Aug. 27. She said she has a newfound gratitude for the time with her husband and three children.

She has considered running for office again and vows next time she would be better prepared.

“I was a bit naïve,” Carroll said, “in how treacherous and backstabbing the political game could be.”

“I would now have my eyes wide open to know that the jabs may be coming from your own people.”

Most of the interview involved discussing the damage to her reputation she believes Scott and his top staff caused, as well as her efforts to clear her name.

From the start of Scott’s first term Carroll felt ignored, and remains convinced the governor only used her to gain votes from blacks and former backers of Bill McCollum, whom Carroll supported before Scott defeated him in the 2010 GOP primary.

On the day of her resignation, Carroll was “surprised” to see both Hollingsworth and the general counsel outside her door as the FDLE agents left. She greeted them, but had no idea what was about to happen.

“He [Hollingsworth] goes, ‘We had this talk with the governor a couple of days ago and he’s asking for your resignation,’” Carroll said. “I go, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’

Then Hollingsworth said, “It’s just going to distract the governor from his legislative session.”

After signing the one-line resignation letter, which was pre-prepared, Hollingsworth told her to cancel all appointments and stay in the office. Then she learned Scott would hold a press conference on the matter the following day.

Carroll said it would have been proper for her to stand with Scott, and given a chance to bow out gracefully. She is upset with people linking her resignation to the Allied probe; and she sensed distance from Scott from day one of his term, as well as the little concern for the $124,000 annual salary Carroll used for support.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” she added.

Carroll wept talking about friends and family who offered prayers, and said she learned an important lesson from the rejection by people she believed were friends.

After resigning, Carroll served as a senior advisor for a West Palm Beach-based business. She also spends time with her family, while awaiting on final edits on her 300-page, yet untitled, autobiography.

Writing the book was therapeutic, she said, something that allowed her to find peace. She hopes readers will welcome her reflections on her life, including the struggles she faced as a black woman, as well as her determination to set the record straight on the circumstances of her resignation.

“Hopefully, it will be something that’s inspirational, motivational and uplifting to people to talk about some of my trials and tribulations and overcoming them,” Carroll said.

Carroll declined to give an evaluation of Scott’s first-term as governor.

With a sly smile, she said, “I’ll save that for the book.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.