One of the six women accusing state Sen. Jack Latvala of sexual harassment and groping has gone public.
Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top Florida Senate staffer, identified herself as one of Latvala’s accusers on Wednesday.
Perrin Rogers works as an aide to future Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and said Wednesday she decided to out herself as one of the six anonymous women because of media reports and Latvala himself, who Perrin Rogers says is spreading lies about both her and her husband, political consultant Brian Hughes.
Perrin Rogers told POLITICO Florida her confidentiality had been breached after Latvala repeatedly made allusions to her identity in interviews with the press.
She said she had been groped by Latvala on two occasions: one where he touched her breast in an elevator and another when he rubbed her legs at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee.
Latvala seemed to imply Perrin Rogers’ accusations spurred from political motivations tied to the Clearwater Republican’s gubernatorial bid.
“Coincidentally, of all the female Senate employees, this one happens to be the wife of a political consultant working for one of the other governor’s campaigns,” Latvala told Bay News 9 earlier this month. “That’s just a big coincidence I’m sure.”
Latvala is correct that Perrin Rogers’ husband, Hughes, is a political consultant and has worked with Republicans in the past, but he has no ties to any gubernatorial campaigns at the moment.
Perrin Rogers finally said Wednesday she had enough of the political intimidation.
“I am fearful of the effect that this unethical action will have on other victims who desperately want to overcome their fear and speak out,” she said.
Shortly after the POLITICO Florida story dropped, Latvala and his supporters launched a counteroffensive against the allegations, trashing the complaints against the former Senate Budget Chief since they were anonymous.
Latvala’s son, state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, were both criticized by Perrin Rogers’ attorney, Tiffany Cruz, for “condemning” Latvala’s accusers on social media.
“Rather than encouraging individuals who are victims of sexual harassment to come forward, anonymously or otherwise, they have taken to every avenue of social media to condemn victims,” Cruz wrote to House Speaker Richard Corcoran earlier this month.
Chris Latvala routinely searches for criticisms against his father, questioning why the accusers were anonymous.
“In America you have the right to face your accuser,” the younger Latvala wrote to Sunshine State News’ Allison Nielsen. “Anonymous accusations don't provide a name, face, date etc.”
Brian Hughes denied political motivation for his wife coming forward against Sen. Latvala.
“Any attempt by Latvala to cast this as politically motivated by me or anyone are untrue and a weak attempt to avoid taking responsibility for his unlawful and despicable behavior,” Hughes said in a statement to POLITICO. “I have never worked against Latvala in any campaigns past or present. In fact, on a few occasions Latvala and his political allies have solicited my professional help for campaigns. Evidence of those solicitations is being provided to the Special Master.”
Hughes has previously consulted for Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican who currently serves as Rules chairwoman, the committee investigating the claims against Latvala.
Senate President Joe Negron's spokeswoman Katie Betta said Negron would not be commenting on any potential conflicts of interest at the present time.
"President Negron cannot comment on any matter related to either the complaint filed with the Committee on Rules or the independent third party investigation being conducted by Ms. Holtzman," Betta told Sunshine State News Wednesday.
With Perrin Rogers’ identity now public, the clock could be ticking for Latvala. Perrin Rogers isn’t just any staff member -- she’s a top aide, and is well-liked in Tallahassee and in the Capitol on both sides of the aisle.
In order to expel Latvala, the Senate chamber would need two-thirds of Latvala’s colleagues -- 26 senators -- to oust him from his position.
Latvala has previously dipped his hand in other scandals rocking the Capitol over the last few weeks.
Former state Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned in October after an extramarital affair with a Tallahassee lobbyist. Latvala is said to have helped Clemens, his friend, “handle” the situation before it was leaked to the press at the end of October.
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.