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Politics

Six Women Accuse Jack Latvala of Sexual Harassment

November 3, 2017 - 7:00pm
Jack Latvala
Jack Latvala

Senate Budget Chief Jack Latvala has been accused by six women of sexual harassment, the latest chapter to unfold in an explosive week in Florida politics. 

On Friday, Politico Florida published a story detailing allegations from six different women — both Democrats and Republicans — all of whom tell the same story: Latvala touched them inappropriately and made comments that made them uncomfortable. 

“He reached around the far side of my body and just started grabbing,” recalled one staffer on an elevator encounter with Latvala. “His hand went around my back and grabbed me around my lower frontal abdomen and then wandered. He touched the underside of my breast on that side.

“I jumped and might have said something like ‘whoa,’ but before I could react any further, the elevator ride was over,” she continued.

Other women said Latvala’s explosive temper was a means of intimidation and that they had to “grin and bear it” when dealing with Latvala for fear of having their projects axed. 

The women asked not to be identified due to possible retribution in a small “good old boy” town where many female staffers and lobbyists do not wish to speak up because they are afraid of receiving backlash or a “bad reputation” for making allegations against powerful men. 

Earlier this week, reports surfaced of hidden surveillance which showed Sen. Latvala kissing a female lobbyist, first on the cheek, then on the lips in the parking lot of a Tallahassee Italian restaurant. 

Latvala, who is married, acknowledged the kiss but shrugged it off as normal behavior. 

“I’m sure there are a lot of pictures of me kissing people up there, especially if I have not seen them for a while,” Latvala said. “Some people kiss on the lips.”

An hour after the story broke, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said his chamber would launch a full investigation into the matter, citing a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual harassment. 

“These allegations are atrocious and horrendous. As Senate President, my first priority is the safety of our staff and visitors,” Negron said.  

Negron directed an immediate investigation into the allegations by Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts, but Roberts, a friend of Latvala's, recused herself from the investigation Saturday evening.

"It became clear to me that my professional relationship with Senator Latvala through the years, most recently as Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections, of which [Latvala] was the chair during President Gaetz's administration, could call into question the objectivity of the investigation," Roberts wrote in a letter to Negron.

Negron also urged anyone to come forward confidentially if they had any information regarding the allegations.

“The Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or misconduct of any kind and takes this issue with the utmost seriousness,” Negron said. “Any allegation will be immediately and fully investigated.”

The accusations against Latvala come on the heels of other stories of sexual misconduct from Sen. Jeff Clemens, who resigned last week as a result of an extramarital affair with a Tallahassee lobbyist. 

Latvala, who is running for governor and also serves as budget chair, could find himself knocked out of that position if the allegations are true. Rumored replacements for the job include Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Anitere Flores, R-Miami. 

Latvala’s gubernatorial bid is still ongoing but it is uncertain whether he will pull out of the race in light of the complaints against him and he vowed to fight back against the accusations Friday evening, calling the Politico Florida story "totally fabricated" and a "smear campaign" designed to hurt him.

"I'm going to clear my name," Latvala told the Times/Herald Friday.

 

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates. 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

 

Comments

Let me start out by saying there is no excuse for sexual harassment, none, zero, nada, and it should not be tolerated at all... However, why is it just now, that all these people are coming out of the woodwork claiming sexual harassment? Why was nothing said at the time? shortly thereafter? individually? It just casts doubt on the whole problem, and that is the sad part...

Senator Lauren Brook of Plantation has a history of infidelity. The rumors in Tallahassee are that she is having an affair with a state employee. This is one of the reasons she came out calling on victims of sexual assault to speak out. Brook wants the narrative to be about non-consensual sexual harassment and not the improper work place practices that she and so many others in Tallahassee engage in including Jack Latvala. It may not constitute harassment in their book, but it is unethical and creates a hostile work environment for those that are not engaging in sexual "networking".

Has anyone looked into Bean yet?

I suspect that at some point sane women will regret all this nonsense. Bout the time they have to pay for their own meals and call a male escort service to get laid. Not sayin some of these men are not creeps - but by the time they are 14 women know what men want. And say yes or no as it suits them. This is just more Obama liberal horse manure fall out. These people are going to have some rough sledding if they ever face real challenges. Hopefully, they can all get together and join THE SCREAM on the 8th. Or, get a job.

"JACK" Latvala (aka Colonel Sanders) can play touchy-feely all he wants.... in KENTUCKY. Why is it that when some people rise to a certain level, they seem to think that they "MORE EQUAL" than others? perhaps narcissism grows with the ego as political power is the enabler. I've had question feeling about "JACK" for a long time. He needs the Clean-Up his act, or better yet, SHUT IT DOWN!

A number of Senators hope to keep the focus on sexual harassment-- as opposed to inappropriate sexual behavior. There is a culture of promiscuity in the Senate---just because a relationship is "consensual" doesn't make it right---especially for married Member of the Legislature....and it's not just the men who are guilty of acting in a manor that damages the institution.

The retired Seargent of Arms, Donald Severance, was the person who was supposed to keep wives from meeting girlfriends. He was another skirt chaser who sent inappropriate texts and made advances to women attempting to lobby various senators. Somebody should subpoena him.

Wow. This^^^^^^^^^^^^ You could sell tickets to benefit the budget. Quick, someone call Amy Baker and see if she can put a number on it! Might just plug the Irma hole.

Comments are now closed.

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