Florida lieutenant governor accused of misconduct by former aide
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - A former staffer of Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll said she was fired last year after she caught her former boss and another female aide in "a compromising position" in Carroll's office, according to a court filing.
The ex-office aide, Carletha Cole, 49, was arrested last year on charges she illegally leaked taped conversations of Carroll's staff to a Florida newspaper reporter.
Defending herself against the charges, Cole alleges in a court filing the lieutenant governor fired her shortly after she walked in on the Republican leader and the staff member in Carroll's capitol office.
The allegation came to light in a July 5 court filing in response to a motion by prosecutors that certain records in the case be made confidential.
"When she entered the office, she found the Lieutenant Governor and her Travel Aide, Beatriz Ramos, in what can only be described as a compromising position," according to a motion filed by Cole's lawyer, Stephen Webster.
The Florida governor's office did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment about the allegations. However, the lieutenant governor did issue a strong denial to other media.
Cole has waged a public campaign against Carroll for months, calling for her impeachment and accusing her of "nepotism and misuse of office for sexual escapade."
Carroll, 52, is a Navy veteran who heads the state's military affairs and is Florida's first elected female lieutenant governor. She is a married mother of three children.
Cole, an African Methodist Episcopal minister and former magazine publisher, was fired last year after making public statements about working conditions in Carroll's office.
In the filing, Cole alleges that one of Carroll's aides described the relationship between Florida Governor Rick Scott and his lieutenant as "dysfunctional."
She claims Carroll's staff often secretly recorded conversations and that a senior staff member in the governor's office referred to Carroll as "a loose cannon."
In one incident, Capitol police were called to investigate a fire that had broken out in a trash can beneath Cole's desk after a cigar was left there. Cole alleges the fire may have been intentionally set by Ramos.
The court file includes the results of a 2011 polygraph test that indicated Cole was truthful. The test was conducted by a retired polygraph expert who used to work for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Polygraphs are not admissible in Florida state courts.
"My client is telling the truth," said Webster. "But every effort is being made to discredit her."
A mother of two with no prior criminal record, Cole was charged in December with leaking taped conversations with Carroll's chief of staff to a Jacksonville newspaper reporter. She could face five years in prison if convicted of the third degree felony.
According to the court document, Cole claims she did not actually make the recording.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Brown and David Adams; Editing by David Adams and Todd Eastham; Desking by Vicki Allen)
(This story has been refiled to correct the description of Carroll to first elected female lieutenant governor, not first female lieutenant governor in eighth paragraph and to fix typo in second to last paragraph, and style points)
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