TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The 2018 state legislative session is less than two months away but much of the chatter in the Florida Capitol is about the sexual harassment probe in the Senate that led to the removal of Republican state Senator Jack Latvala from his perch as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Now, POLITICO Florida is reporting the woman who filed a Florida Senate Rules Committee complaint stating that Latvala groped her is an employee of the chamber and has also filed a separate internal workplace complaint against him, according to her attorney.
POLITICO reports attorney Tiffany Cruz did not want to disclose her client’s identity or affirm whether she was one of the six women who work in Florida’s Capitol and anonymously alleged in a Nov. 3 POLITICO article that the Republican lawmaker had sexually harassed them by groping or making demeaning comments about their bodies.
Meantime, the Florida Legislature is hiring a national employment law firm to investigate Sen. Latvala. The hiring came the same day an attorney for Sen. Latvala released the results of polygraph exam given to the Clearwater Republican. The polygraph examiner concluded that Latvala was being truthful when he denied that he had inappropriately touched women.
POLITICO Florida first reported the allegations, and the news outlet said the women did not want to be identified for fear of losing their jobs. The women included legislative staff members and lobbyists.
Latvala has long been considered one of the Capitol’s cagiest, if sometimes difficult, figures. He served in the Senate from 1994 to 2002, left because of term limits, and then returned in 2010. Faced with term limits again next year, he has launched a campaign for governor.
Since the allegations emerged, some lawmakers and other critics have called for Latvala to leave the Senate.
But in a lengthy interview with The News Service of Florida, Latvala maintained that he’s never groped the unidentified women or others and accused political enemies of masterminding the allegations. He has hired an attorney.
Latvala did not dispute some of the allegations in the POLITICO, which included accusations that he had made remarks to women about their bodies.
“Do I let my mouth overload my good sense every now and then and maybe say, `You’re looking good today? You’ve lost weight? You’re looking hot today?’ Yeah. But I haven’t touched anybody against their will,” he said.
The normally gruff senator paused when asked during the interview about the impact of the allegations and the ensuing scrutiny.
“I don’t want to use the word I want to use because you can’t print it. But it’s a very challenging time. Very challenging time. You really find out who your friends are at times like this,” he said.
“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”