According to Glassdoor, the average pay for domestic violence advocates is a bit under $35,000 a year. In Florida, officials and community members are voicing criticism of the salary of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) CEO Tiffany Carr, who, according to a 2017 report, receives $761,560 annually.
FCADV is the state’s lead agency on domestic violence and, since 2003 under then-Governor Jeb Bush, has expanded from an advocacy, training, and policy group to an organization that acts as a pass-through funding organization for the state. FCADV receives state and federal dollars and distributes funds to local-level domestic violence agencies throughout the state of Florida. Florida is one of a few states to distribute funds this way, along with Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania.
Based on records obtained by the Miami Herald, Carr’s salary in 2012 was reported to be $316,104, but it turns out she was getting $457,164 in compensation back then. What’s more, since 2012, her salary has more than doubled from what was originally reported. Compared to other nonprofit leaders, Carr reportedly makes five times more than her professional colleagues doing the same types of jobs.
For instance, the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, a similar-sized social services nonprofit that contracts with the Department of Juvenile Justice and is also a pass-through organization, pays its executive $164,783. The head of Our Kids, a Miami-based foster care agency that also operates on state money, receives a salary that is less than one-third that of Carr’s, despite overseeing a budget and staff more than twice as large.
Carr reportedly receives two percent of the total FCADV budget, half of which is paid by the state of Florida, as her salary. However, if one were to remove the $35 million pass-through that composes the larger part of the organization’s budget, the amount Carr’s compensation takes up is more like 10 percent.
FCADV’s board of directors decide executive salaries, and due to the nature of FCADV’s pass-through funding responsibilities, this creates a situation that can lead to conflicts of interest. Nearly the entire board comprises current and former executive directors of domestic violence organizations around the state, which rely on FCADV funding distribution. Dan Ravicher, a professor from the University of Miami, School of Law, stated, “That’s a direct conflict of interest that should have been avoided. If you’re a recipient of grants from an organization, you should not be on the board of directors. And it shouldn’t be that the majority of board members are receiving grants from the organization.”
But the matter is actually a little worse than it appears, since by all accounts Carr is very politically connected. As Governing’s Adiel Kaplan explains:
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In addition to Jeb Bush, Carr and her coalition have enjoyed the support of other Republican leaders for years. Former Gov. Charlie Crist named her to his transition team after he was elected in 2006, and Scott’s close ally, Tallahassee and Washington lobbyist Brian Ballard, is one of two outside lobbyists hired by the organization.
Visitors to the coalition’s office encounter a framed photo of Carr with Crist upon entering the lobby. Carr has been a contributor to Florida politicians over the years—mostly, but not exclusively, Republicans.
These connections extend beyond elected officials to agency decision-makers, and that can lock down a position of unquestioned power. Referring to the Coalition, Kaplan reports:
It gets some of its money from the Attorney General’s office, but most comes from DCF, which is the main oversight body for the organization. DCF spokesman David Frady said the agency’s inspector general reviews a third-party audit of the coalition’s contract every year and conducts annual reviews to check that the funds are being spent properly.
DCF has not done an inspector general report on the coalition since 2005, when it looked into six allegations, including an alleged “special relationship” between Carr and her then-overseer at DCF, Trula Motta, and a complaint that the coalition was not required to provide a detailed line-item budget to DCF like other contractors. Carr’s salary was not mentioned at the time, but DCF employees stated they thought Motta “served at the pleasure” of Carr, rather than the reverse, and that they felt like they “work for Tiffany Carr.” One employee described it as “the tail is wagging the dog.” The report’s findings on these allegations were inconclusive.
Carr has run the coalition for nearly half its 40-year history. Starting under Gov. Bush, the coalition continued to assume more of the responsibilities for distribution and oversight of public money. Since then, Carr has effectively consolidated the power that comes with controlling the purse strings. Her supporters say this has made her an effective advocate and lobbyist for this cause.
Another aspect of Carr’s salary that troubles lawmakers and state employees in Florida is who received notice of it. Orlando Representative Amy Mercado, who sits on the House budget committee that oversees FCADV’s spending, says she was surprised to learn of Carr’s salary. Mike Carroll, the secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), stated that his agency files list her salary of $300,000, which is significantly lower than the salary listed on FCADV’s 990 tax forms. (DCF, which funds Our Kids and “more than half” of FCADV’s budget, pays Carroll $141,000—about half Carr’s listed salary.)
Carroll has ordered a financial audit of all DCF contracts with FCADV, adding, “If the audit finds that FCADV was not properly reporting salary expenditures, the department will take immediate corrective action.”
Still, where was the coalition in all of this? Admittedly, having such a connected and influential executive has probably not hurt the member programs’ resources, but having that much power vested in a single individual is not a great accountability structure…thus, the absurd salary.—Ember Urbach and Ruth McCambridge