Ex-Lt. Gov. treated as 'unwanted stepchild'

Tallahassee, Florida (Tallahassee Democrat) -- Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll describes Gov. Rick Scott as coldly impersonal — treating her like "an unwanted stepchild" once she helped him win his election, then tossing her overboard at the first sign of scandal.

In an autobiography titled "When You Get There," Carroll writes that she stayed stoically silent while being sidelined by Scott's senior staff aides for 26 months. After being questioned by two Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents about work her public relations firm had done for a charity operating Internet cafes, Carroll said she was stunned when Scott chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth handed her a one-sentence resignation letter.

"It was a knee-jerk reaction," she said of her decision not to fight for her elected post. "It was so demoralizing and disrespectful for Gov. Scott to send a subordinate to fire me."

The book, released Wednesday to coincide with Carroll's 55th birthday, recounts her girlhood in Trinidad and Brooklyn, 20 years in the Navy and her seven years as the only black Republican in the state House. She supported former Attorney General Bill McCollum for governor in 2010 and after Scott beat him in the GOP primary, Carroll said she was surprised to be interviewed for lieutenant governor – and to get Scott's call right after that interview.

Her role was to help keep McCollum supporters on board, appeal to some women who might favor Democrat Alex Sink, a woman who was chief financial officer, and to improve GOP standing among blacks who vote overwhelmingly Democratic. She recalled bipartisan well-wishers coming to the inauguration in Tallahassee, but said Scott staffers told her not to mingle with the crowd.

"That was touching to see, but during the inauguration, I was treated like an unwanted stepchild," Carroll wrote. "That night at the ball, I was even instructed not to go out into the crowd. ... I think his staff was afraid he'd be upstaged."

Carroll, whose office was about 75 feet from Scott's in the Capitol, said she basically worked for Chief of Staff Steve MacNamara, then Hollingsworth, but had to have a Scott deputy with her at all meetings. Early in the administration, she said, an attorney suggested she be sent to head the Department of Business and Professional Regulation or Department of Children and Families.

"I wondered if they just wanted me on the ticket to win, and after that were trying to push me out of the position by making me an agency head," she wrote. "That way, the governor wouldn't have to deal with me regularly or have to share the spotlight."

She writes of her work with Space Florida and state efforts to retain and expand military bases. Although she made numerous public appearances with Scott, she said their relationship was distant within the governor's suite.

"During my entire time in office, I never received a birthday card or an anniversary card or anything that showed a personal touch," she wrote. "No matter what I did to try to establish a relationship with the governor, nothing worked."

Once, she collapsed from heat exhaustion and struck her head, Carroll wrote, and immediately sent a message to Scott, "but he never called back." A couple weeks later, she mentioned the incident.

"The governor said, "Oh, you hit your head? Okay.' and that was the end of that," she wrote. "Clearly, something was missing there, some ability to make personal connections that he just didn't have."

Carroll wrote that, like the military, "it was a boy's club" in the Capitol. She said MacNamara and Hollingsworth were strictly controlling and that when she got brief, infrequent meetings with Scott, he sometimes kept her waiting while he took phone calls or talked with other staff.

Eventually, Carroll said she mentioned her unhappiness to Scott.

"Again, the governor just gave me this song and dance: 'Oh, it's tough being a lieutenant governor.' That was his fallback line," she wrote. When asked about press reports that she might not be kept for Scott's re-election, Carroll said he told her, "Sure you'll be on the ticket. Why wouldn't you be?"

When the FBI and FDLE arrested 57 officials of Internet café operations, Carroll was not charged with any wrongdoing for PR work her firm had done while she was a state House member. But after the FDLE left, she wrote that Hollingsworth was at her door, saying Scott wanted her to resign because the case would be "a distraction" in the 2012 legislative session, which had just begun.

She said she agreed to go quietly partly because of her military background, supporting the command decision, but also because she felt shunted aside and ignored for two years. In her book, Carroll speculates that Scott never wanted a lieutenant governor – which is required by the Constitution – and notes that he didn't replace her for almost a year.

Carrol said she would have left willingly if Scott had asked.

"I think he and his staff were worried that if they asked the first black woman elected to the office to leave, they would not look good," she wrote.

She also writes, "It amazes me how bullying and careless the media can be sometimes," acting as "judge, jury and executioner" when a public official is touched by fallout of a scandal. Carroll said her vindication got far less attention than the Internet café investigation.

"I firmly believe that being a black Republican made me a good punching bag," she wrote. "If I were a black Democrat, I would have had civil rights groups coming to my defense during some of these incidents."


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