Amid furor over exorbitant compensation, county to take over Miami domestic violence center

Samantha J. Gross, Mary Ellen Klas

After months of scandal surrounding the massive compensation packages awarded to Tiffany Carr, the CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Miami-Dade County has assumed control of a Miami non-profit domestic violence center currently led by Angela Diaz-Vidaillet, a former coalition board chair.

According to a letter sent by the county to Diaz-Vidaillet and the non-profit’s chairman, Franceso Diberli, The Lodge will be taken over by the county in two months. The county may assume control earlier if the operating entity, Victim Response, Inc., complies.

The Lodge, a 46-bed shelter that opened in May 2004, gets about $1.9 million in local funds for operations in addition to state and federal dollars that are passed down through the coalition.

The coalition is the clearinghouse for all state and federal domestic violence funds, and manages about $52 million annually in state and federal government funding that goes to 42 domestic violence centers that serve as emergency shelters for victims of domestic abuse, including The Lodge in Miami.

Diaz-Vidaillet came under fire earlier this year for being part of a group of board members who approved more than $7.5 million over three years in salary, bonuses and cashed-in paid days off to Carr.

A probe of the coalition was prompted after the Miami Herald revealed in 2018 that Carr reported to the IRS a $761,000 annual salary and the FCADV refused to cooperate with a subsequent state audit.

In her testimony before a Florida House committee in February, Diaz-Vidaillet said as the investigation into FCADV heated up she called Carr and asked: “What have you done?’ And she said, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong. Everything I did, I did for the contract.’ ”

Tiffany Carr – shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence – was the longtime CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Carr told her that if a former staffer hadn’t “leaked” details about how she cashed in $4 million in paid time off, “nobody could have found out for two years,” because that is how long it would take before her 2019 salary would be reported on the IRS 990 form.

Diaz-Vidaillet also testified that the board’s former attorney, Leonard Collins, attempted to find a cure for the financial mess Carr had gotten into and came up with a plan that would “save the coalition.’‘

“We were kept in the dark for a long, long time,’‘ she said.

Diaz-Vidaillet also testified that she thought the hundreds of paid days they awarded to Carr were hundreds of hours, not days, drawing skepticism from lawmakers.

The county is currently conducting an audit of Victim Response, Inc., and asked that the organization continue providing full access to records to facilitate the audit. The county operates the only other domestic violence center in Miami-Dade through its Community Action and Human Services Department.

In her letter, Kemp wrote that the county will work with the center to keep intact any grants, donations or in-kind services that it has and ensure the safety of domestic violence survivors who depend on services at The Lodge.

A spokesperson for The Lodge could not be reached for comment.

“It’s adios. See you later,” said Ron Book, who chairs the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust. The trust helps fund domestic violence centers in the county. “What was discovered is what some of us knew related to Ms. Carr in the past. ... I don’t think we had any other option.”

Last month, the state of Florida launched two legal actions against the coalition, its board of directors — including Diaz-Vidaillet — and three current and former executives, alleging they conspired to defraud the state to pad Carr’s hefty compensation package and demanding that millions in taxpayer money be repaid.

VRI Termination Letter by Casey Frank on Scribd

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ lawsuit, filed in the Second Judicial Circuit, accuses Carr, the coalition and the board of breach of its contract with the Department of Children & Families, “breach of implied duty of good faith,” and breach of fiduciary duty. DeSantis also signed a bill that severed the special relationship FCADV had as the state’s sole contractor for domestic violence funds.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s complaint, also filed in the Second Judicial Circuit, seeks to recover all or part of the estimated $7.5 million paid to Carr over the past three years, as well as dissolve the coalition and reorganize it.

Mary Ellen Klas contributed from Tallahassee.

Correction: An earlier version of this story cited a letter that gave 30-day termination notice for The Lodge contract. The county has since updated the letter, giving The Lodge a 60-day termination notice.