Florida state senator resigns amid sexual misconduct claims

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Florida state Sen. Jack Latvala resigned Wednesday, one day after an investigation found credible evidence of sexual harassment, as well as allegations that he offered to support legislation in exchange for sexual favors.

Latvala, a Republican who is also running for governor, denied wrongdoing even as he submitted his letter of resignation to Florida Senate President Joe Negron.

“I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate,” Latvala wrote.

Retired Judge Ronald Swanson, who carried out the investigation, recommended the Senate sanction Latvala when it began its annual session next month. However, top Florida Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, called on Latvala to resign as soon as the report was made public Tuesday.

Swanson added that some of Latvala’s actions may have violated public corruption laws and the Florida Senate has referred those allegations to law enforcement.

The investigation into Latvala, 66, began after a complaint filed by Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson. Perrin Rogers accused Latvala of inappropriate touching in a Capitol elevator, at a private club and other occasions.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks during his State of the State speech Tuesday, March 4, 2014 on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Scott touted Florida's improving economy in his speech that drew a contrast between the recession years under former Gov. Charlie Crist and the jobs created during his first three years in office.  (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

Gov. Rick Scott, seen here, had called for Latvala’s resignation.

 (AP, File)

She said on many occasions, Latvala would comment on her appearance by saying she looked “hot” and would stare at her chest as she tried to talk about legislative issues with him.

Other witnesses said Latvala is known to make grunting or growling sounds aimed at woman, and a lobbyist said she was touched her in an unwelcome manner three or four times.

One former lobbyist said that Latvala would touch her inappropriately, including touching the outside of her bra and panties, every time they were alone in the office. She said he “intimated to her on multiple occasions, that if she engaged in sexual acts or allowed him to touch her body in a sexual manner he would support legislative items for which she was lobbying,” Swanson wrote. That included explicit text messages sent to the woman.

The woman said she tolerated the unwanted touching for two years. “I felt it was something he felt entitled to,” she said in the report.

Perrin Rogers’ attorney said in a press release that the report confirms that Latvala created a hostile work environment for Perrin Rogers, and she criticized him for trying to undermine Perrin Rogers during the investigation.

“Jack Latvala and his legal team have made a mockery of a process that is legally obligated to protect accusers and the accused equally,” Tiffany Cruz said. “They victimized Rachel by violating her confidentiality and threatening her and her family, all in an attempt to intimidate witnesses and other victims from coming forward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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