By Brandon Larabee, The News Service of Florida: TALLAHASSEE – As part of her defense in a criminal trial, a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said she caught the lieutenant governor in “a compromising position” with another aide shortly before being fired last year.
The allegations are part of the ongoing prosecution of Carletha Cole, a former aide to Carroll who shared a recording of a conversation with Carroll’s chief of staff with a reporter for the Florida Times-Union after she was fired.
Cole has been charged with disclosing that recorded conversation.
Cole’s motion, filed in response to the state’s efforts to keep some records sealed, portrays a dysfunctional office where Carroll’s aides frequently recorded conversations and the lieutenant governor pushed for a website where fans could follow her. It also says Steve MacNamara, former chief of staff for Gov. Rick Scott, viewed Carroll as a “loose cannon,” in the words of the filing.
But its most sensational anecdote concerns Cole inadvertently walking in on what she believed to be a sexual encounter between Carroll and a female employee.
“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.
A spokesman for Scott did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking a response, but Carroll told the Associated Press that the claims were “totally false and absurd.”
Cole took a polygraph late last year concerning her claim. She answered “yes” to questions about the incident, including “Did you ever observe Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll and … Ramos in a sexually compromising position in the Capitol?”
Timothy Robinson, retired chief polygraph examiner for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said that “Ms. Cole’s charts were somewhat difficult to read,” but he believed her.
“Her charts, in my opinion, are indicative of a non-deceptive examinee (truthful),” Robinson wrote. “Ms. Cole passed her polygraph.”
The charges could prove explosive among social conservatives who form the backbone of the Republican Party and have long admired Carroll. But Carroll’s defenders are likely to point to credibility questions arising from the criminal charges Cole faces.
But Cole goes beyond simply alleging an isolated incident, saying Ramos “jealously hoarded the Lieutenant Governor’s attention in a manner which can only be described as bizarre” and that Cole was ordered to book adjoining rooms when Ramos traveled with Carroll. Cole also said that policy was changed without explanation after Carroll’s husband went along on one of the trips.
Finally, the filing implies that Carroll worked to snuff out an arson investigation at the Capitol that could have implicated Ramos. Carroll personally met with the FDLE investigator looking into a fire in Cole’s trash can. Ramos later told the investigator she put a cigar that she thought she had extinguished into the trash can; the case was closed.
The day after the investigator met with Ramos, Carroll wrote a letter of recommendation for him to work in the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.
Stephen Webster, Cole’s attorney, argues in the motion that the incidents are relevant to Cole’s trial.
“A juror could reasonably conclude that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation into the Defendant was tainted by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office in an effort to ensure the Defendant’s arrest, prosecution, and ultimate assassination of her character in order to shield the Lieutenant Governor and her staff from legitimate inquiry into their own misdeeds,” the motion said.
At the same time, Cole claims that Scott’s press shop “had specifically instructed staff members to covertly record communications within the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, as well as any and all communications with a member of the press in order to permit rebuttal of any misquotes or inaccurate attributions.”
And the motion says that John Konkus, Carroll’s chief of staff, used a “smart pen” that doubled as a tape recorder
“Mr. Konkus regularly joked about his ability to covertly record conversations, allowing the participants of the conversation no knowledge that the recording was occurring given that Mr. Konkus’ ‘smart pen’ looked like an unassuming writing implement,” it says.
Cole’s trial was scheduled to begin next week but has been delayed.