A Spring Hill organization that provides support services to victims and survivors of domestic violence in Hernando County stands to receive a share of revenue derived from the state’s settlement of a lawsuit involving a group that was supposed to support domestic violence centers in the first place.
“It is our understanding that there is $1.1 million that will be distributed to certified domestic violence centers in the state,” said Shannon Sokolowski, M.N.M., executive director of the Dawn Center a non-profit certified domestic and sexual violence center that provides no-cost support services for victims and survivors including a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, and outreach support.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the settlement of those suits during an Aug. 26 press conference in Orlando.
The lawsuit stems from a 2020 investigation into the reported misuse of funds by officers of the non-profit Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc. (FCADV) which coordinated the services of the state’s 41 certified domestic centers, and distributed funds to the centers on an as-needed basis.
Following the probe, state lawmakers passed legislation that removed the FCADV from its duties and allowed the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to directly contract with providers of services to victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Shortly thereafter, the DCF subsequently filed a lawsuit against the FCADV’s officers.
Among other things, terms of the settlement require the FCADV foundation to liquidate all its remaining assets and for DCF to divide $1.1 million derived from the liquidation to certified domestic violence centers around the state including the Dawn Center.
According to Sokolowski, FCADV Foundation funds were solicited for use by centers in the first place.
“That money (raised by the FCADV Foundation) was donor generated,” she said. “The donors were promised that the money would be distributed to certified domestic violence centers around the state.”
Just how much the Dawn Center will receive is uncertain.
According to Sokolowski, the DCF awards funds based on a formula that considers the size of the population the center serves, the number of police reports there, and other factors.
“The formula is already well established,” she said.
When the Dawn Center will receive the funds is also unknown.
“This (legal) process took time and I expect that distributing the revenue will take time, too,” she said.