Local domestic violence shelters face uncertainty after statewide investigation

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) – Florida’s 42 Domestic Violence Shelters are on pins and needles as the state opens two investigations into Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the non-profit the funnels state money to the shelters.

The investigation was launched after the CEO of the coalition had been compensated with millions of dollars in "paid time off" days.

Two domestic violence advocates from North Central Florida who are board members of the coalition have been implicated.

Theresa Beachy of "Peaceful Paths" In Gainesville and Donna Fagan, who formerly ran "Another Way" in Lake City has been subpoenaed.

In a strongly worded memo, Governor Ron DeSantis ordered his inspector general Melinda Miguel to look into the spending practices of the FCADV.

“The coalition’s compensation, their spending. A Look at whether or not there has been any reasonable grounds to determine whether a crime has occurred,” said Miguel.

Former CEO Tiffany Carr was paid at least $761,000 a year, but there were other perks that could drive that number much higher.

“A number of records were provided already but we still need a lot more,” said Miguel.

Under state law the Department of Children and Families is required to send all state money, $45 million a year, through the Coalition.

“It puts the department in a very difficult position,” said DCF Secretary Chad Poppel.

We spoke Poppel as he left the Governor’s office Thursday.

“A vendor can basically tell us they are not going to agree to our terms and we have to give them the money anyway,” said Poppel.

Sen. Aaron Bean is moving legislation to give DCF control of the funding.

“My immediate priority is to pass this bill,” said Bean.

The House will take a rare step subpoenaing more records and all of the coalitions board members.

“We need to get to the truth. For twenty months we’ve been stonewalled, not being given any information,” said Rep. Tom Leek, who chais the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee.

Attorney Mark Herron was hired by the FCDAV Wednesday.

“Interface with the committee as well to do an internal investigation into what went on,” said Herron.

Local shelters said they depend on monthly checks from the coalition to keep running and assert any delay in those checks could result in fewer victims being helped.

Also under investigation is a contract provision between local shelters and the coalition that required the shelters to pay dues twice a year to the coalition.