Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts is recusing herself from the sexual harassment investigation of budget chief Jack Latvala, citing years of a professional relationship with the Clearwater Republican
Senate President Joe Negron ordered an investigation Friday evening into allegations published by POLITICO Florida that Latvala sexually harassed or groped six unnamed women staffers and Senate office visitors.
“The Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or misconduct of any kind and takes this issue with the utmost seriousness,” Negron wrote. “Any allegation will be immediately and fully investigated.”
“As General Counsel to the Senate, you put me in charge of that investigation,” Roberts said in a letter Saturday. “I immediately began my assessment as to how the investigation should proceed.”
Roberts decided her professional relationship with Latvala, most recently as Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections during the term of then-Senate President Don Gaetz – a committee where Latvala served as chair — could raise questions of objectivity of any investigation.
“I have always ascribed to the belief that no one person is more important than the institution itself,” she added. “Therefore, effective immediately, I am recusing myself from the investigation.”
Roberts then recommended a third-party investigation into the allegations, citing “Joint Policy 2.2316 of the Joint Policies of the Presiding Officers” which allows the human resources director of the Office of Legislative Services to work with an “independent, professional service provider” on an inquiry.
Latvala issued a statement Friday night saying he “unequivocally” denies the allegations and that he finds it “interesting that these anonymous complaints have only come forward after I began my campaign for governor.”
“I am in consultation with my attorney and will take all legal actions necessary to clear my name,” Latvala said in the statement. “I also welcome a complete review of these allegations by the Senate. If my political opponents want a fight, then it’s a fight they will get.”
While Negron ordered the probe Friday evening, he did not immediately strip Latvala of his post as the chairman of the budget committee.
Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report, republished with permission.