TALLAHASSEE -- In a new book, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll describes the misery of working in a “boys’ club” led by Gov. Rick Scott, who showed no interest in her ideas to reach out to black and Hispanic voters.
Carroll’s story, When You Get There, hits bookstores on Wednesday — her birthday. By coincidence, her grievances about Scott are spilling into public view on the very day he’s launching his general election campaign for a second term.
Carroll, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, was the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Florida and held the largely ceremonial job for more than two years. Scott’s two top aides forced her to resign on March 12, 2013, after state law enforcement agents interrogated her about past public relations work for Allied Veterans of the World, a group linked to Internet cafes that were shut down after investigators uncovered widespread fraud.
Carroll initially did not disclose all of her income in 2009 and 2010 from Allied Veterans on state financial disclosure forms, but later reported the money on amended forms. She was not charged with any wrongdoing and writes that she felt humiliated by how Scott’s aides “ambushed” her with a one-sentence resignation letter they forced her to sign.
Carroll describes Scott as overly controlled by his own staff and lacking in a personal touch, saying he showed no concern after she fainted and struck her head on the floor at a hot Greek church. “Clearly, something was missing there, some ability to make personal connections that he just didn’t have,” Carroll said.
Working with black political consultant Clarence McKee in the 2010 campaign, Carroll said she built a plan to reach out to black voters with local newspapers, radio and phone calls and that despite the campaign’s objections, she attended a forum in Miami hosted by Bishop Victor Curry, a radio host and prominent voice in Miami’s black community.
“The campaign didn’t want it, but I did it anyway,” she writes. As a result, Carroll writes, Scott got 6 percent of the African-American vote, according to 2010 exit polls, and if she had not directed a “minority stealth” campaign, “Scott would have lost the election.”
McKee, a Scott supporter, said in an interview that Carroll’s account was true and that she pushed for more outreach to Jewish voters in Broward and Palm Beach counties in the final weeks of the 2010 race, in which Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink by fewer than 62,000 votes.
How Carroll became Scott’s running mate was stunning, she recalled.
What she didn’t know was that few others were interested in the job. Carroll said she was called to a meeting in Miami in 2010 by Scott’s campaign manager, Susie Wiles, where two lawyers asked her a series of questions. Then she and Scott met and talked, and he quickly phoned her and asked her to join the ticket.
“I was still wondering why he had chosen me. He never gave me a real answer to that question,” Carroll writes. “I wasn’t one of the good old boys, and he was a millionaire with his own plane. Why me?” Wiles said that account was accurate. A longtime friend of Carroll’s, Wiles said she didn’t think the book would damage Scott’s re-election prospects.
“I have a negative view — as I think most people do — of people who do these kiss-and-tell books after they have been trusted as part of the inner circle,” Wiles said.
Carroll’s book contains no new bombshells, and many of the incidents she describes were reported by the Florida media at the time.
But few in Scott’s orbit escape Carroll’s wrath. She claims that Scott’s former chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, blocked access to the governor and would “undermine or get rid of people who didn’t go along with him,” and that his replacement, Adam Hollingsworth, was “even more ruthless” and lower-level staffers cowered in his presence.
Carroll, a stylish dresser, wrote that when she wore designer pants and boots for an event at the Governor’s Mansion, Hollingsworth ordered her to change clothes, and told her to scrap a scheduled birthday party in 2012 because a hurricane was approaching the state and Scott had canceled public events.
“It was just so silly,” Carroll writes.
Carroll writes that she spent months asking superiors for a travel budget before she got one, but after security costs in her first year approached $300,000, Scott’s staff limited her travel and assigned her a lower-ranking state trooper than previous lieutenant governors had.
During Scott’s inaugural celebration, she writes, “I was treated like an unwanted stepchild,” and when she wanted to talk to the governor, she said, she was told to ask for an appointment with his scheduler. Scott’s campaign declined to address Carroll’s specific allegations.
Spokeswoman Jackie Schutz issued a statement that said Carroll “made the right decision for her family by resigning.” The media also draws fire from Carroll, who complains that news organizations accepted Scott’s explanation of her forced resignation.
Carroll has a new career as a political commentator for WJXT Channel 4, a Jacksonville TV station, and she planned to analyze Tuesday’s primary night election results.