By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
A former aide to Jennifer Carroll alleges the Florida lieutenant governor had an inappropriate relationship with another staff member, Beatriz Ramos.
The Associated Press’ Gary Fineout broke the story Wednesday about Carletha Cole’s allegations:
An ongoing criminal case against a former top aide to Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is transforming into a swirl of allegations about improper relationships, widespread illegal taping and other incidents inside Carroll’s office.
The allegations, which Carroll denies, were included in a court filing made late last week by the attorney representing Carletha Cole, who was arrested last October on charges that she gave an illegally taped conversation with another Carroll aide to a newspaper reporter.
Cole’s attorneys made the filing in response to prosecutors’ attempts to seal some evidence in the case.
In the filing, Cole contends that she witnessed Carroll and a top aide, Beatriz Ramos, in a “compromising position” inside Carroll’s office, that Carroll’s chief of staff secretly recorded conversations routinely at the direction of those working for Gov. Rick Scott, and that the trash can at Cole’s desk might have been deliberately set ablaze following an argument between her and Ramos.
Cole also said Ramos was living at Carroll’s home and at one point she was ordered by 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.
Carroll, a former Navy officer who is also a mother of three, says the allegations are all lies.
Cole has also alleged that the incident involving the fire in her trash can in March 2011 was an example of intimidation to keep the alleged inappropriate relationship between Carroll and Ramos a secret.
In a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report that Cole sent to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting — which included her notes and allegations (see below) – Cole said investigators quickly and inappropriately dismissed the arson. She made similar allegations in a recent court filing.
It’s not clear at this time whether this is a story of a disgruntled ex-employee poisoning the well or the beginning of a scandal at the lieutenant governor’s office. In an attempt to bolster Cole’s credibility, the law firm representing her sent out a press release. Here are some excerpts:
Carletha Cole, former member of Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll’s staff, was fired after she discovered the Lt. Governor and her Travel Aide, Beatriz Ramos, in what court documents refer to as a “compromising position.” The case has developed into a veritable soap opera of governmental proportions, with Cole claiming that Carroll is obstructing justice in an effort to eliminate the harm that a lesbian affair could have on her conservative political career.
Following her dismissal, Cole was arrested for allegedly distributing recordings that were taken in the Capital building without permission. But she was subjected to harsh criticisms and a volatile work environment before the case escalated to this degree …
Although polygraphs are not admissible in court in the state of Florida, Yahoo! News reports that Cole, in an effort to prove her honesty, took a polygraph test. The results of the test, which was administered in 2011 by a retired Senior Polygrapher of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, indicate that Cole is telling the truth.
“The Lt. Governor is using her power as a politician, as a leader within the American government system, to trample on a fine person,” stated Webster. “Carletha Cole is telling the truth, but the powers that be are doing everything possible to silence her.”
So far, the governor’s office has been vehemently denying the allegations. The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday:
On Thursday, Lane Wright, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, called the claims “outrageous.”
Cole, 49, was arrested and charged in October with disclosing an illegally taped conversation to a Florida Times Union newspaper reporter. The taped conversation involved Cole and Carroll’s chief of staff, John Konkus, talking about interoffice drama.
Cole was charged with releasing the tape, not with actually recording the conversation. If convicted of the third-degree felony of disclosing it, she faces up to five years in prison.
In Florida, it is illegal to record a private conversation without the consent of its participants. Cole denies making the recordings.
The criminal case turned nasty this month when Cole, in court documents, accused Carroll of engaging in sex, lies and illegal audio taping at her office in the state Capitol.
Allegations of a sexual relationship between Carroll and a woman are particularly problematic for the lieutenant governor. A darling of Christian conservatives, Carroll gained credibility among rightwing groups last year when she alleged during a Christian conservative conference that the media was leading an anti-Christian movement.
Cole provided the following documents to FCIR. All notes and allegations are hers: