TALLAHASSEE - Florida's lieutenant governor has resigned amid a police probe of an internet cafe operator. Jennifer Carroll once represented the company Allied Veterans of the World, whose owner faces racketeering charges. She quits one day after police question her about the case.
Carroll's resignation letter to Governor Rick Scott runs two sentences, and offers no details about why she walked away from the job.
The governor's office says that Carroll quit so that her ties to the internet cafe company at the center of a racketeering probe would not distract the governor's administration.
Carroll once worked as a marketing consultant for the company whose owner stands accused of making $290 million after supplying illegal gambling software in Florida, and claiming that proceeds benefit a veterans group, when police say the group got only 1% of the money.
“I'm sure she's going to admit that she made a mistake and that's why she resigned.” Sarasota County Republican Party chair Joe Gruters says Governor Scott has a crucial choice to make. “Is it more of a political base decision, or is it more of a decision based on what's going to help him be the most effective and successful governor?”
The lieutenant helps the governor shepherd his agenda through the legislature. But Governor Scott might need someone to shore up his conservative base after recent pushed to raise teacher pay and to accept the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. “It will say a lot about him and how he's developed as a governor,” says Gruters.
The governor says he won't pick Carroll's replacement until after the legislature adjourns. Then, once that smoke clears, people will look to Tallahassee, like Catholics in St. Peter's Square look to the chimney whose smoke could signal the future of the state.
“This is completely unplanned, unexpected, and as a result it's going to create some fireworks, and it's going to be an exciting process to watch,” says Gruters.
He says Scott could consider state senator Nancy Detert from Venice or state house member Doug Holder from Sarasota for the job. But he considers former state house speaker Allan Bense the front runner.
The owner of Allied Veterans was arrested Tuesday in Oklahoma on charges of racketeering. He is accused of making $290 million after supplying illegal gambling software in Florida and claiming the games' proceeds would benefit a veterans group. Oklahoma authorities say the group actually received only 1 percent of the money. Chase Egan Burns, 37, and his wife, 38-year-old Kristin Burns, both face extradition to Florida to face the charges.
Chase Burns owns International Internet Technologies in Anadarko, about 60 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.
He and his wife were arrested after an investigation that spanned several years and involved the Internal Revenue Service and various law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and Florida, including the sheriff's office in Florida's Seminole County, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office.
Chase Burns was released from the Caddo County jail Tuesday afternoon on a $500,000 bond. He denied any wrongdoing.
"What we do is legal," he told The Oklahoman on Monday, the night before he turned himself in to local authorities.
His father, Tony Burns, also serves as his attorney. Tony Burns told the newspaper that his son broke no laws.
"What Chase was doing was he was actually selling the Internet time," Tony Burns said. "That's was what his business was - providing the software. And there's nothing illegal about providing software to any business."
The former lieutenant governor - who is the mother of Miami Dolphins defensive back Nolan Carroll - has been named in previous scandals.
Last year, a former aide, Carletha Cole, claimed to have found Carroll in a compromising position with a travel aide inside's Carroll's office.
Cole is charged with violating state law for allegedly giving a recording of a conversation with Carroll's chief of staff to a newspaper reporter.
Cole says she was ordered by Ramos to find adjoining hotel rooms for Carroll and Ramos when they traveled. Carroll has said previously the allegations are an attempt by Cole and her attorney to get the criminal charges against Cole dropped.
Carroll, a married mother of three, became the brunt of late-night talk show hosts when she defended herself against the allegations, telling a Tampa Bay area TV station that black women who look like her "don't engage in relationships like that." She later apologized for the remarks, which implied that black lesbians are not attractive.