State Sen. Jack Latvala, already facing two sexual harassment complaints that were filed in the Senate by the same person, is now facing a third formal complaint regarding his conduct in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
The latest complaint was filed by someone who had been a close ally of Latvala in the Senate..
“This was a difficult decision, as I have truly admired and respected Senator Latvala for many years,” said Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who filed the complaint Tuesday. “However, after great thought and deliberation, I knew this was the right thing to do for myself, for Ms. Perrin Rogers, and for all others who may wish to come forward on this or other such grounds.”
Book says while Latvala is entitled to a fair hearing and has a right to defend himself, “it is not ever ok to make attempts to “out” a complainant, or to publicly attack or shame them with character assassination – things Senator Latvala has unfortunately and clearly done through various media outlets.”
Rachel Perris Rogers, the Senate staffer who filed the sexual harassment complaints against Latvala, says she was forced to go public last week with her claims when Latvala and his attorneys started leaking details about her identity and falsely accusing her husband of working for one of Latvala’s opponents in the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Some of the items that have been leaked include personal text messages between Perrin Rogers and Latvala.
“This behavior is unbecoming of a sitting Senator, unfair to Ms. Perrin Rogers, and discouraging to others who may have wished to come forward and may not now do so for fear that “they too” will be publicly shamed, or even jeopardize their employment,” said Book.
“As Senators, we wanted to bring about systemic change as a result of the complaints and discussion that has taken place on how we treat women in and outside of the process,” she added. “As leaders, we lead by example, but what has happened here is not bringing about change at all.”
Book’s complaint is yet another sign that Latvala might be losing whatever support he once held in the Capitol. It comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson described the tactics of Latvala and his defense lawyers as a “smear campaign.” Perrin Rogers serves as Simpson’s top legislative aide.
At least one senator has called for Latvala’s resignation. Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, told Politico the sexual harassment case is taking a toll on the Senate:
“This highly respected and regarded establishment is being burnt to the ground and I feel Senator Latvala is running around with the Napalm and the matches. This is only going to get worse. And the best thing for everyone — every senator, every staffer, every accuser and/or accused — would be a resignation so that we do not have to deal with this problem anymore.”
Latvala denies the sexual harassment claims and has vowed to fight the charges against him to the very end.
“Why should I quit, leave town, when I didn’t do it?” Latvala told the Miami Herald on Monday. “I’m in my 16th year here, and I’ve got to protect my own reputation.”
Perrin Rogers is one of the six women who anonymously told their stories of alleged incidents of sexual harassment against them by Latvala. She is the only one to file a complaint with the Senate. Perrin Rogers claims Latvala made lewd comments to her and touched her inappropriately.
“As uncomfortable as all this may be for myself and my colleagues, I know it pales in comparison to what victims of sexual misconduct endure when they choose to come forward with a report,” Book said. “The investigation will yield truth into the matter at hand, but in the meantime, we must hold ourselves, and the process, to the highest ethical standard and refuse to allow the kind of behavior and mistreatment we have seen in the wake of the allegations.”