The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced late Friday that is has concluded it’s preliminary review of former state Sen. Jack Latvala and, based on the review, has decided to launch a full-scale investigation into charges of public corruption by Latvala as senator.
“Regarding Senator Latvala, FDLE’s Office of Executive Investigations is now conducting an active investigation,” said agency spokeswoman Jessica Cary. “We cannot provide any additional details at this time.”
Latvala resigned from the Senate last month amid a cloud of controversy involving sexual harassment charges made against him. Six women anonymously told their stories to Politico in early November. The women accused Latvala of touching them inappropriately or making lewd comments towards them.
One of those women, Rachel Perrin Rogers, a legislative aide in the Senate’s Majority Office, filed an official complaint against Latvala and came forward with her identity after she says the Clearwater Republican tried to intimidate her and out her to members of the media.
The Senate responded by hiring an independent counsel and a special master to conduct separate investigations.
In late December, retired judge Ronald V. Swanson, the special master, concluded Latvala should not only be sanctioned for making repeated inappropriate physical contact with Perrin Rogers, but also be investigated by law enforcement for allegedly exchanging his support for legislation in return for sexual favors, which is a violation of ethics rules and laws against public corruption.
Charges of quid pro quo contained in Swanson’s report — physical contact or sexual intimacy “in exchange for support of legislative initiatives” — were made by another witness other than Perrin Rogers.
It was later learned that witness was longtime lobbyist Laura McLeod, 59. McLeod, now an aide to Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said she did not intend to speak out initially because she saw herself as “a flawed messenger.” Twenty years ago when, when Latvala first served in the Senate, McLeod said she and Latvala had a consensual, sexual affair.
Latvala returned to the Senate in 2010, but McLeod said it wasn’t until he chaired Senate committees that held power over McLeod’s clients that he pursued her for sex. She said it began in January 2015 and lasted until April of last year,
McLeod was the executive director and lobbyist for the non-profit Florida Association of DUI Programs. Latvala became chair of one of the key committees of jurisdiction for her client’s issues: the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development. She says he asked her to have “one more time for the good times.”
Swanson recommended the evidence against Latvala be turned over to law enforcement. The information in the report was turned over to FDLE for review.
It took FDLE approximately one month to conduct the preliminary review. There’s no word as to how long an official investigation might take.