Senate President Joe Negron announced Thursday afternoon that an independent, third-party investigator has been appointed to look into sexual harassment charges against Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

In a memo sent to members of the Senate, Negron says the Senate has retained Jackson Lewis, a nationwide employment law firm, to conduct the investigation. The firm’s Tampa-based Gail Golman Holtzman, a principal in the Tampa office of Jackson Lewis P.C.,  is handling the investigation.

The selection of the firm was made by Karen Chandler, director of the Senate’s Office of Legislative Services. Chandler reviewed five law firms before reaching her decision.

Negron told members that “Holtzman will serve as the lead attorney and primary contact in the investigation.  Individuals may contact Ms. Holtzman through her assistant, Nicole Villa, to schedule appointments beginning tomorrow.” Potential victims and / or witnesses can now call (813) 512-3215 to talk with Holtzman.  

In a memo to Negron, Chandler explained how she made the determination to retain Jackso Lewis.

OLS sought initial guidance from law professors at state universities in identifying firms specializing in this field Consideration was given to firms with sufficient and balanced resources to conduct an investigation of this nature in a time sensitive manner. Other criteria that were considered in order to ensure a fair and objective investigation were its independence from the Florida Legislature in regards to appropriation of state funds and governmental relations. The Senate also requested that OLS consider those firms that could accommodate the sensitive nature of the subject matter given that media reports stated that the victims were fearful of sharing their experiences.

Holtzman has more than 30 years experience practicing law. She specializes in federal and state labor and employment claims.

Latvala, who is seeking his party’s nomination for governor next year, was accused by six women who work in the Capitol of making suggestive comments to them and touching them inappropriately. Their allegations were first reported Friday by Politico.

Latvala has denied the charges, insisting they are politcally motivated.