It has been more than six months since allegations of sexual harassment were first made public against former state senator Jack Latvala. Six women anonymously told their stories to Politico in early November. They accused Latvala of touching them inappropriately or making lewd comments towards them, or both.
The allegations dominated headlines and led to two special investigations by independent counsel hired by the Senate to look into the charges. Those investigations both determined that Latvala had groped women and made insensitive comments.
They also determined that Latvala may have traded his legislative influence in exchange for sexual favors. One of the reports suggested that charges of quid pro quo for sexual favors be forwarded to law enforcement to investigate for possible public corruption.
The information made it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which conducted a review of the claims and in late January announced it was launching a criminal investigation into the charges.
That investigation has been underway for nearly four months now.
“FDLE’s Office of Executive Investigations is currently continuing its active investigation of the Latvala case,” said Jessica Cary, a spokesperson for FDLE. That’s all the agency will say while the investigation continues.
Of the original six women who came forward to make the sexual harassment claims to Politico, only one, Rachel Perrin Rogers, a legislative aide in the Senate’s Majority Office, filed an official complaint against Latvala. She went public with her identity after she says the Clearwater Republican tried to intimidate her and out her to members of the media.
Perrin Rogers continues to work for the Senate. Her attorney says while the story has faded from the headlines, the past several months have been a stressful time for Perrin Rogers.
“They’ve been very stressful,” said Tiffany Cruz. “There’s, I think, some continuing issues happening in her employment that have created a stressful situation.”
Cruz partly blames the stressful conditions on Senate staff who remain loyal to Latvala.
“I think there’s some component of that,” said Cruz. “Employees are definitely treating her differently, I would even say … the employees in the (Senate) President’s Office have conducted themselves differently than they did in the past with her.
“It doesn’t surprise me because I see that often with employers (in sexual harassment cases),” Cruz added. “But, I am a little bit surprised they’re so blatant about it.”
Cruz says some of the unusual treatment her client has been subjected to includes requiring her to be at certain Senate events that have occurred when she was scheduled to be out on annual leave that had been approved by her supervisor, and an increase in the number of people who are copied in on emails to Perrin Rogers involving requests and other matters.
Cruz says Perrin Rogers has been the subject of frequent talk around the Senate office, and claims her colleagues’ demeanor towards her has changed.
While Rogers was the woman who filed the complaint that sparked the Senate investigations into Latvala’s behavior as senator, it was the claim of another woman that he offered the exchange of sexual favors for his legislative influence on certain proposals in the Legislature that sparked the criminal investigation by FDLE.
Laura McLeod, 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. He returned to the Senate in 2010, but McLeod, who worked for a statewide association at that time, said it wasn’t until he chaired Senate committees that held power over issues important to McLeod’s clients that he pursued her for sex. She said it began in January 2015 and lasted until April of last year,
She says he asked her to have “one more time for the good times.”
Immediately following the release of the two independent Senate reports were released, Latvala submitted a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron.
In the letter, Latvala said it was his inability to face his anonymous accusers that led to his decision to resign.
“I have had enough,” he said. “If this is the process our Party and Senate leadership desires, then I have no interest in continuing to serve with you.”
Attempts to reach out to Latvala’s attorney, Steve Andrews, and to McLeod, were unsuccessful.
The next chapter in the sexual harassment case against Latvala will be determined once FDLE investigators finish their work and turn their findings over to the local state attorney. It will be up to the state attorney to determine whether the charges against the former senator have enough merit to follow through with charges of public corruption.