Janet Cruz has no idea whether sensational sexual harassment charges leveled over the weekend against state Sen. Jack Latvala are true.
But the House Democratic Leader from Tampa says some of the passages she read in the POLITICO Florida story made her skin crawl.
“I was heartbroken when that girl just sat there and cried and then when (former legislator, now Congressman) Matt Gaetz said he saw a young woman trapped in a booth that he was using his body to keep her in the booth?” Cruz said Monday afternoon. “I mean that just horrified me. It made me sick to my stomach. It was really painful to read.”
Now with a Senate investigation set to begin on the sexual harassment allegations, Latvala asked Senate President Joe Negron Monday if he could be relieved of his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. Negron immediately granted the request.
That’s a good thing, Cruz says.
“I’ve known Jack Latvala for a long time, and he’s never personally been disrespectful to me,” she said about her Pinellas County colleague. “But I think that until the allegations are proven or disproven that he probably made a good decision to sit back and let the investigation clear his name if he believes that will be the case.”
Negron is seeking an independent investigator to handle the investigation.
Cruz says nothing stuns her when it comes to this issue in the Capitol, relating a moment she once observed on the House floor.
“I watched a member profess his love and talk about getting married to a woman who was sitting in the family section who was his former aide, and who had been married,” she says. “So where was the outrage then?”
Last week, before reports about Latvala but after Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth resigned after revelations of an extramarital affair, Cruz issued a lengthy statement, saying “my door is always open” to any woman who had been previously too intimidated to discuss any issues of sexual harassment.
“My statement was to every woman,” she says, “especially these young women who are lobbyists or are working in subordinate positions, it’s important for them to know that I’m a no-nonsense legislator and that they have a safe place in coming to me.”
“I will defend them, and I will fight for them, and I will make sure that justice is served,” Cruz added. “I’m really sad to see what’s happening in Tallahassee … The match was lit, and now we have a bonfire.”