After a term with Gov. Charlie Crist, you’d think Floridians would be used to rumors of gay goings-on in the governor’s suite. But even normally unflappable Floridians are reeling at the news that Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R) might be…How did that one really rude web site put it? Oh yeah, a “carpet muncher.”
Carroll, 52, a former Navy veteran born in Trinidad and married mother of three, including Miami Dolphins player Nolan Carroll, is known as an ultra social conservative, pushing abstinence-only education, among other favorite rightwing initiatives. She’s also had to explain shifting income reporting (her net worth has varied depending on whether she was filling out tax returns or applying for low-income minority business set-asides), how she made speeding tickets in her former legislative district disappear without paying any fines, and how she rented an office whose location would have shown eligibility to bid for additional female-owned business set-asides, except it was already occupied by a private detective.
Carroll, like her boss, Gov. Rick Scott, also has a reputation for dealing harshly with perceived enemies. Scott, for example, recently tried unsuccessfully to have three judges that he considered liberal prosecuted for improper election filings because they had their paperwork notarized by a state worker, a practice so common no one realized it was verboten.
Carroll took it even further with a former aide, having her arrested for disclosing to the press a conversation recorded in the lieutenant governor’s office. The practice of taping visitors and colleagues was said to be routine under Carroll, but the aide, Carletha Cole, shared the recording with a newspaper. The tape confirmed the chaos and dysfunction alleged in Carroll’s office.
But the arrest and resulting investigation might have consequences Carroll never envisioned, like allegations of an affair with her female travel aide, Beatriz Ramos.
“When she entered the office, she found the Lieutenant Governor and her Travel Aide, Beatriz Ramos, in what can only be described as a compromising position,” according to a motion filed by Cole’s lawyer…
Cole took a polygraph late last year concerning her claim. She answered “yes” to questions about the incident, including “Did you ever observe Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll and .?.?. Ramos in a sexually compromising position in the Capitol?”
Timothy Robinson, retired chief polygraph examiner for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said that “Ms. Cole’s charts were somewhat difficult to read,” but he believed her.
“Her charts, in my opinion, are indicative of a non-deceptive examinee (truthful),” Robinson wrote. “Ms. Cole passed her polygraph.”
Cole also said at one point she was ordered by the aide, Beatriz Ramos, to find adjoining hotel rooms for Carroll and Ramos when they traveled. Cole said that she was “scolded” by an agent with Carroll’s security team when she placed Ramos next door to Carroll when the lieutenant governor and her husband traveled last summer to Puerto Rico. The agent told her to not do it again, Cole says, although he did not explain why. She says Ramos was also living in Carroll’s home.
The really bizarre stuff comes out in a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation into a trash can fire in Cole’s office.
Ramos told an FDLE investigator that she had taken a couple of puffs on the cigar at a St. Patrick Day party, put it out and wrapped it up in a paper towel and returned with it to her office at the Florida Capitol. She then put it in Cole’s trash can. The FDLE investigator concluded it was an accident, but Cole’s attorney questioned the account, noting that both a cigar and a match were found in the trash can after the fire.
Seriously? You couldn’t leave it in the ash tray at the party? Or find a trash can there? Or anywhere along the route from the party to your office? Or inside your office? You had to put the smelliest of smelly objects — a used (and apparently still smoldering) cigar — in your purse and throw it away in Cole’s trash can? And let’s don’t even get into the Freudian aspects of using a cigar, of all things, to set the fire.
Yes, we are dealing in the realm of the petty here. But for those of us who have had the sanctimonious Carroll waived in our faces by the bigoted Scott as evidence of how broad-minded he is, and how inclusive the Republican party is, it’s good stuff. How inclusive is the GOP going to be on this one? We can’t wait to find out.