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The Bizarre World of Florida

Political aide ‘walked in on Florida’s deputy governor Jennifer Carroll having lesbian encounter with female employee in her office’ July 13, 2012

An ongoing criminal case against a former top  aide to Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is developing into a swirl of  allegations about improper relationships and widespread illegal taping of phone  calls 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 fired from her job.

Cole, 48, was arrested last October on  charges that she gave an illegally taped conversation with another aide to a  newspaper reporter.

Sex scandal: Florida governor Rick Scott and his deputy Jennifer Carroll have been mired in allegations from a former aide about affairs and phone tapping

Sex scandal: Florida governor Rick Scott and his deputy  Jennifer Carroll have been mired in allegations from a former aide about affairs  and phone tapping

Cole’s attorneys made the filing in response  to prosecutors’ attempts to seal some evidence in the case.

In the most sensational claim, Cole said she  witnessed Carroll and a top aide, Beatriz Ramos, in a ‘compromising position’  inside Carroll’s office.

She also claimed 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  the pair when they traveled.

The disgruntle aide said that she was  ‘scolded’ by Carroll’s security team when she placed Ramos next door to Carroll  when the lieutenant governor and her husband traveled to Puerto Rico last summer.

Sensational: Carletha Cole, 48, was fired from her job and is on trial for giving an illegally taped phone conversation to a newspaper

Sensational: Carletha Cole, 48, was fired from her job  and is on trial for giving an illegally taped phone conversation to a  newspaper

The agent told her to not do it again, Cole  said, but did not explain why.

Lieutenant-Governor Carroll, a former Navy  officer who is also a mother-of-three, said the allegations are all  lies.

‘That’s totally false and absurd,’ said  Carroll, a former Republican legislator who was chosen by Scott as his running  mate in 2010.

Carroll said the allegations are an attempt  by Cole and her attorney to get the criminal charges against Cole dropped. The  former aide was charged with a third-degree felony and could serve up to five  years in prison.

Carroll said: ‘They  are trying to pull at straws. All this stuff you mentioned doesn’t excuse what  happened.’

Ramos, whose title is special assistant to  the lieutenant governor, did not return a phone call to her office.

Stephen Webster, the Tallahassee  attorney  representing 48-year-old Cole, stood by the allegations  included in the filing.  He said: ‘That’s the truth. It is what it is.’

Webster said his client is a grandmother and  minister who had never been in previous legal trouble.

He said the filing was made to show  that  Carroll, Ramos and Carroll’s chief-of-staff, John Konkus, have  reasons to make  Cole look bad because they could be witnesses at Cole’s  trial.

Mr Webster added: ‘It’s a desperate  prosecution that is politically motivated.’

The attorney works for the law firm of Steven  Andrews, who has clashed with Governor Scott in the past.

He filed a lawsuit during the 2010  campaign  attempting to obtain a video deposition Scott had given in a  case against a  chain of health clinics he helped start.

Political power: Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll (with Governor Scott) allegedly had a relationship with a female aide

Political power: Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll (with  Governor Scott) allegedly had a relationship with a female aide

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement  (FDLE) investigation that resulted in Cole’s arrest began last September after  the agency received a complaint that a secret audio recording had been made in  Carroll’s office.

The agency reported its findings to  prosecutor Willie Meggs, the state attorney for the Tallahassee area.

It is against Florida law to record someone  without consent, but there have been legal questions about recordings made in  public buildings.

The Florida Times-Union newspaper obtained a  copy of the conversation between Konkus, Carroll’s chief-of-staff, and Cole, a  senior program analyst who also acted as a spokeswoman for Carroll.

The Times-Union placed the recording on its  website. Konkus can be heard saying that the governor’s then- chief of staff,  Steve MacNamara, is afraid of Lieutenant-Governor Carroll.

Konkus also complained that Scott ‘is not  leading’.

The woman is facing a third-degree felony  charge. Her allegations should be considered in that light.

Spokesman  for Governor Scott

Later in her court filing, Cole stated that  she went to Carroll’s office door, which was closed. She said she walked in and  found Carroll and Ramos ‘in what can only be described as a compromising  position’. Carroll denied this ever happened.

Cole was fired about the time the  investigation began after publicly speaking out about infighting in Carroll’s  office.

A sworn statement by an FDLE agent said that  investigators looked into Cole’s emails and cellphone records and discovered  that she had sent the recording to the Times-Union reporter.

Konkus, who said the recording was made  without his permission, told investigators it was made sometime between June and  August 2011. He said he was working with Cole on Carroll’s website.

But Cole’s attorney maintained in his filing  with the court that recording went on all the time in the lieutenant governor’s  office and that Scott’s communications teams instructed staff members to  ‘covertly’ record conversations in the office, especially with members of the  press for accuracy.

They also maintain that Konkus joked about  having a ‘smart pen’ that could record conversations without anyone knowing  about it.

When reached by email, Konkus said he could  not comment on the case and directed questions to Scott’s press office. Brian  Burgess, a spokesman for Governor Scott, called the allegations about widespread  taping and the rest of Cole’s assertions ‘outrageous’.

‘The woman is facing a third-degree felony  charge,’ Burgess said. ‘Her allegations should be considered in that  light.’

Attorney Stephen Webster made the court  filing after Meggs’ office filed a motion to keep confidential two documents  that the defense wanted to use -  a one-page report summarizing a polygraph  test given to Cole where she talked about Carroll and Ramos and an FDLE report  regarding the trash can fire in Carroll’s office.

The prosecutor on the case would not comment  about the motion.

The official filing stated that the documents  should be kept confidential in order to protect a ‘compelling government  interest’ and to avoid harming third parties.

The state’s motion also contended the  documents were irrelevant but could pose a threat to Cole receiving a fair trial  because they would generate media interest.

A judge held a hearing last Friday where he  ruled that the polygraph report would be kept confidential but the FDLE report  would remain public.

That report details a March 17 incident where  Ramos threw a cigar into Cole’s trashcan. The cigar started a fire that was put  out by another employee.

Ramos told an FDLE investigator that she had  taken a couple of puffs on the cigar at a St Patrick’s 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 trashcan.

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.

 

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