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Jennifer Carroll to pay fine, admit violations in ethics case

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The drama over Florida’s former lieutenant governor, who was forced to resign more than two years ago, may be finally over.

The Florida Commission on Ethics on Friday unanimously approved a settlement with Jennifer Carroll where the one-time rising star in state Republican politics agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and admit she violated the state’s ethics law.

Under the settlement, Carroll acknowledged she did not disclose money paid to a company she controlled. The money came from Allied Veterans of the World, which was eventually accused of running an illegal gambling ring.

Carroll was paid the money when she was a state legislator from northeast Florida and before she ran with Gov. Rick Scott. She was forced to resign in March 2013 after investigators questioned her about the work she did. She was never charged with any wrongdoing, but the case was eventually forwarded by authorities to the ethics commission.

“I am glad to finally put this issue to rest,” said Carroll in an email.

Carroll maintains that her failure to disclose the money from Allied Veterans was an “accounting error” and inadvertent. She said she corrected it once it was discovered. She noted that other legislators have been allowed to correct their financial disclosure forms.

Because the violation occurred when Carroll was in the state House it will be up to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to decide whether to impose the $1,000 fine.

Carroll has previously said it was wrong for Scott to force her to resign since there was not any evidence she was involved in any illegal activity with Allied Veterans.

She has demanded an apology from Scott, but the governor has not given her one.

Carroll’s forced resignation short-circuited a promising political career. Carroll, 55, was a veteran in the U.S. Navy and was appointed executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs while Jeb Bush was governor. After a bruising GOP primary, Scott turned to her to help him with the Republican establishment that backed his opponent. Her son, Nolan Carroll, is a cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles.

During its investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement discovered that Carroll’s company was paid nearly $100,000 by Allied Veterans in 2009 and 2010 for her work as a public relations consultant. Most of the money was then transferred to her personal banking account.

Carroll, who was a state legislator at the time, did not report earning that much on either mandatory financial disclosure forms she filed with the state or on her federal income tax filings. She changed them only after she was questioned by state investigators about it.

It was during the investigation that Carroll’s attorney turned over her 2010 income tax filing. Investigators noted she reported to the IRS earning $48,000, but Allied Veterans records showed they had paid Carroll’s company $72,000 that year.

While she was in the Legislature, Carroll filed a bill that could have affected Allied Veterans. She told state investigators that it was not her intent to sponsor the bill but that it was supposed to be a “placeholder.” She blamed her aide for mistakenly filing the bill and said she withdrew it.

The statewide investigation into Allied Veterans of the World resulted in the arrest of 57 people, the passage of legislation outlawing Internet cafes and the successful prosecution of Allied Veterans attorney Kelly Mathis.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press. 

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