Florida state Sen. Jack Latvala resigns over sex harassment allegations

Florida Senator and candidate for governor, Jack Latvala, speaks during the Florida AP Legislative Day at the Florida Capitol, Thursday, Nov 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

By Gray Rohrer

 

Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE | Jack Latvala, a powerful member of the Florida Senate and Republican candidate for governor, resigned Wednesday after two reports said he sexually harassed and made demeaning and vulgar comments to female staffers and lobbyists.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, sent a letter to Senate President Joe Negron continuing to deny any wrongdoing and condemning the investigations into his conduct.

“I have had enough,” Latvala wrote. “If this is the process our Party and Senate leadership desires, then I have no interest in continuing to serve with you.”

The resignation is effective at midnight Jan. 5. He made no mention of his candidacy for governor.

Latvala’s departure comes after two Senate reports investigating misconduct allegations were made public, setting up a review by fellow senators that could have resulted in his expulsion.

One report found probable cause that he groped and verbally abused a Senate staffer and offered to trade his support for legislation for sexual favors with a lobbyist. Such a quid pro quo exchange could spur criminal charges, the report concluded.

Another report released Wednesday featured reports from anonymous female staffers and lobbyists recounting instances of harassment.

The investigations were triggered by a Politico report in November detailing allegations by six anonymous women of sexual misconduct and harassment by Latvala.

Pressure had been mounting on Latvala to resign before the reports were completed, but those calls grew louder Wednesday, as GOP leaders called for him to leave office.

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged Latvala to move on.

“I am appalled by the findings of the special master report,” Bondi said. “How can we trust Senator Latvala as a lawmaker to create the rules by which we live when he refuses to follow them?”

The report from special master Ronald Swanson, a retired judge, suggested the testimony of an anonymous lobbyist that Latvala repeatedly sexually harassed her and offered to trade his support for sexual acts should be turned over to law enforcement for possible criminal charges. The report said the allegations were backed up by text messages that were not included in the document.

The report also found probable cause that Latvala groped or made sexually suggestive comments to Rachel Perrin Rogers, an aide to Senate Republican Majority Leader Wilton Simpson of Trilby, on four occasions dating back to 2013.

 

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