Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation was announced Wednesday in the wake of a federal probe into a company she represented with ties to Internet cafes.
In a letter submitted to Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday Carroll wrote,
"Effective immediately, I hereby resign the Office of Lieutenant Governor of the State of Florida. It has been an honor to have served the State of Florida in this capacity."
The Orlando Sentinel reported Lt. Gov. Carroll was interviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday about her ties to Allied Veterans of the World, a company that runs Internet cafes. On Tuesday, the same day Carroll submitted her resignation, federal law enforcement arrested officials from the company along with a Jacksonville police union chief on racketeering charges.
The non-profit held itself out to be a charity for veterans that was associated with the Veterans Administration and oversaw dozens of store-front "electronic sweepstakes" centers that it called "fund-raising centers," according to a federal search warrant affidavit, prepared by an Internal Revenue agent.
The store-front "electronic sweepstakes" centers have exploded across Florida in less than 5 years, and have managed to stay in business by using a loophole in the Florida law that bans gambling. While there are casino's in Florida, those are run by Indian tribes and are protected from the law.
The federal affidavit stated the store-front centers were "nothing more than internet casinos that operated slot machines in violation of Florida's gambling laws".
The affidavit went on to say that amounted to "a conspiracy and scheme to defraud the public and governmental agencies." The company managed to gross $290 million dollars between 2007 and 2012, but only donated $6 million to charity.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said he would not name a replacement for Carroll until after the 60-day legislative session ends in May. Scott also released a statement of support for the woman he picked as his running mate in 2010.
"Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned yesterday in an effort to keep her former affiliations with the company from distracting from our important work on behalf of Florida families. I will not elaborate on the details of her resignation further, other than to say that she resigned and she made the right decision for the state and her family.
We appreciate her willingness to step up and serve our state. She was a tireless advocate for Florida's military and our mission to create more jobs. We are grateful for her service."
Scott is up for re-election again in 2014, and the Republican Party of Florida has already stated he should pick a replacement for Carroll who is Hispanic to try and win the Hispanic vote when the election comes up. Carroll was Florida's first African-American Lieutenant Governor.
Carroll's problems with Allied Veteran's of the world started when her Jacksonville public relations firm, 3N and JC, did work for Allied in 2009 and 2010. Allied Veteran's also reportedly contributed $25,000 to Rick Scott's re-election fund, but Scott's office released a statement saying it didn't have a record of the donation. Scott has already requested a report of all funds donated so far, and by whom, and has said any with ties to Allied Veteran's would be donated to charity immediately.
In response to Carroll's resignation Florida chair for the Democratic Party Allison Tant released a statement saying:
"Floridians expected an administration focused on solving the problems facing Florida's families, but instead got a scandal plagued Governor and a revolving staff door.
Rick Scott and his administration have made a mockery of the Governor's office — embarrassing Floridians while failing to accomplish his legislative priorities. Scott campaigned on changing Tallahassee but his first three years have been more of the same corruption and waste that taxpayers have come to expect from Florida Republicans."
This isn't the first time Carroll has courted controversy during during her term as Lt. Governor.
In 2011, the Florida Times-Union reported she had used false documents to qualify for a Jacksonville minority-owned grant program for her firm. Last year, her aide Carletha Cole, was charged with giving a Times-Union reporter a recording of her conversation with her chief-of-staff. In court filings, Cole accused Carroll of having an inappropriate relationship with another female employee, prompting Carroll to make a controversial remark to a TV reporter that "black women that look like me" aren't lesbians.
The arrests were also a major blow for Allied Veterans of the World, who at one point were the most powerful organization lobbying in Tallahassee for Internet cafes. The cafes offer cash and prizes through computerized games that simulate devices found in casinos like slot machines.
During the 1990's Florida cracked down hard on gas stations and other small businesses that had slot or video poker installed in stores that offered store or gas credit for winnings in exchange for money used in the machines.