The special master appointed by the Florida Senate to investigate claims of sexual harassment against Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, concluded that there is probable cause to suggest Latvala may have committed sexual harassment and sexual assault against multiple women.
In his report released to the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday, retired Judge Ronald V. Swanson concluded that there is probable cause for the committee to conduct an investigation and hearing into Latvala’s actions, going so far as to suggest some of his actions may have been criminal in nature.
Swanson said there was evidence to suggest Latvala may have had “physical contact or sexual intimacy” with women “in exchange for support of legislative initiatives.” Swanson said the allegations “appear to violate ethics rules, and may violate laws prohibiting public corruption” and recommended the allegations be immediately referred to law enforcement for further investigation.
“An internal investigation pursuant to Senate Rules, referral to the Florida Commission on Ethics, and/or some other appropriate mechanism of investigation of the alleged ethics violations is also recommended,” Swanson went on to say in his report.
Charges of sexual harassment against Latvala first surfaced in early November when six women anonymously reported their claims to Politico. One of those women, Rachel Perrin Rogers, filed an official complaint against Latvala in the Rules Committee. She went public with her identity and claims after she said Latvala tried to intimidate her and provided clues to reporters as to her name.
“With this report, the people of Florida now know that the Florida Senate, an august and important institution has been exposed to a terrible truth; the government they fund with their hard earned tax dollars has failed a basic obligation,” said Tiffany Cruz, Perrin Roger’s attorney, in response to the special master’s report. “It has failed to treat employees with dignity and respect by following the law. The person responsible for this sad truth is Jack Latvala.”
Swanson found probable cause existed for just about all of the claims Perrin Rogers made in her complaint. Those claims include lewd comments and groping by Latvala over a period of four years. She alleges Latvala touched her inappropriately once in a Capitol elevator and another time at a Tallahassee bar.
Perrin Rogers serves as the top legislative aide in the office of Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson.
Based on his findings, Swanson recommends “the Senate sanction Senator Latvala for conduct in violation of Senate Rule 1.35. The full range of available sanctions should be considered.” Those sanctions could include the expulsion of Latvala from the Senate.
Senate President Joe Negron sent the report to members of the upper chamber saying “allegations in the complaint are of an extremely serious and sensitive nature.”
“The Senate is under a legal obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the identity and personal identifying information of alleged victims of sexual harassment in public records,” Negron went on to say in the memo. “You, as a member of the Senate, are required to protect the identity of alleged victims of sexual harassment that may be contained in the documents you may review. Failure to adhere to strict confidentiality of this information may be cause for discipline.”
Negron says the Rules Committee will meet to consider the matter on January 11. He says subsequent meetings may be scheduled, as necessary.
Latvala has continuously denied the allegations and has vowed to fight the charges against him.