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Moody Fires Back Over Domestic Violence Coalition

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

TALLAHASSEE --- Attorney General Ashley Moody is asking a circuit judge to reject an attempt by former Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence CEO Tiffany Carr and a foundation that supports the organization to undo an order putting the coalition under the authority of a receiver.

Carr and the foundation are “nothing but kibitzers, seeking to insert their views into a matter that does not concern them,” Moody’s lawyers wrote on Friday.

Leon County Circuit Judge Ronald Flury, who will hold a hearing Tuesday, issued an order March 12 appointing Jacksonville-based lawyer Mark Healy as receiver over the coalition, which for decades administered millions of dollars in state and federal funds meant for Florida’s 42 domestic violence shelters.

Turmoil enveloped the coalition this year, after investigations revealed that the Carr received more than $7.2 million in compensation over a three-year period.

The revelations prompted lawmakers to repeal a longstanding law that required the state to contract with the coalition, and the Department of Children and Families terminated its contract with the nonprofit.

Healy’s appointment came after Moody asked Flury to put the coalition and its fundraising arm, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation, in the hands of a receiver and preserve the assets of both organizations.

Christopher Kise, who represents Carr and the foundation, last week asked Flury to “dissolve” the order, arguing that “there was and is no operational emergency” that warranted the takeover of the coalition by a receiver.

But Moody’s lawyers argued that the issue is up to the coalition’s board of directors, which signed off on the receivership.

The attorney general’s lawyers also pointed out that Kise’s motion “is conspicuously devoid of any supporting affidavit from Tiffany Carr, either individually or as CEO of the foundation.”

The effort seeks “to confuse the court into retreating from its order by asserting several positions that distort the factual record and the legal standards governing receiverships,” Moody’s lawyers wrote in Friday’s 26-page memorandum opposing the motion to dissolve Flury’s order.

The fact that Carr and the foundation are defendants in the lawsuit does not afford them standing to contest Healy’s appointment, Moody’s lawyers argued.

“The limited relief sought against Ms. Carr personally in the complaint --- basically the clawing back from her of millions of dollars in excess compensation that she improperly obtained as the coalition’s CEO --- has nothing whatever to do with the appointment of a receiver,” they wrote.

Flury has not ruled on the state’s request to appoint a receiver over the foundation, which has about $1.5 million in assets, according to a complaint filed March 4 by Moody. Carr is the sole member of the foundation.

Moody’s lawyers also blamed Carr and the foundation for falsely accusing the attorney general’s office of forcing Carr’s personal bank accounts to be frozen. Synovus Bank --- which has accounts for the foundation, the coalition and Carr --- “simply erred” when her account was frozen following Flury’s order, the attorney general’s lawyers wrote.

“The problem was readily resolved in a matter of hours,” they added.

But in a reply filed Monday, Kise said the “extraordinary assertion” that the freezing of the bank accounts of Carr “and her non-party husband” was a mistake “entirely ignores the injunctive power of the order being weaponized against” the couple, who had to hire a lawyer to rectify the situation.

The attorney general also accused Carr and the foundation of seeking to create “the false impression” that there was no need for a receiver for the coalition, because the Department of Children and Families was working with the organization to ensure that domestic violence centers throughout the state were receiving funding during the transition.

“It is ironic that Ms. Carr, having extracted many millions of dollars in excessive compensation for being the coalition’s CEO, should now assert that the coalition could get by without a CEO,” Moody’s lawyers wrote.

DCF’s role “is a short-run stopgap measure and falls far short of meeting the breadth of responsibilities to be undertaken by the receiver,” such as ensuring that funds from sources other than DCF get to the domestic violence centers, they argued.

But in the reply Monday, Kise argued that DCF has taken over “full and complete financial and operational control” of the coalition and all of its functions.

Moody “does not even attempt to articulate how or why DCF is not, has not, or cannot, manage these responsibilities,” he wrote.

Kise also disputed that there was a need for “the drastic remedy” of the appointment of a receiver because Carr, who stepped down as CEO of the coalition in October, no longer plays any role in the management of the nonprofit.

There is “precisely zero risk of any ongoing fraud or waste,” because DCF has control of the coalition, Kise argued.

In Friday’s memorandum, however, Moody’s lawyers pointed to evidence in the March 4 complaint substantiating “the coalition’s efforts to conceal evidence from DCF” and the “diversion of funds from DCF and the domestic abuse centers to pay unconscionable compensation” to Carr and two other executive officers.

Moody’s complaint also showed “the apparent forgery and backdating” of data to support Carr’s “excessive compensation,” and revealed that the coalition incurred “hundreds of thousands of dollars in liabilities to the IRS because of the excessive compensation paid to Ms. Carr,” the attorney general’s lawyers argued on Friday.

But Kise argued that “the issue is not whether the plaintiff is entitled to seek a receiver,” but whether Moody’s office has established entitlement to the appointment of a receiver.

The evidence submitted by Moody’s office includes “an unsworn complaint” and “hearsay affidavits” that were not prepared for the emergency motion to appoint the receiver, he wrote.

The affidavits from women who work at some of the state’s domestic violence centers --- which were provided to the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee investigating the coalition’s finances --- “are nearly identical, suggesting they were scripted by a single author and simply signed by the various individuals,” Kise wrote.

“More importantly, they are all replete with speculation, conclusory assertions and opinion,’ he added.

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