Senate privacy rules shield details on Rules Committee complaint - Florida Politics

Senate privacy rules shield details on Rules Committee complaint

As Sen. Jack Latvala faces an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him, not much is clear, including specifics about a complaint filed with the Senate Rules Committee.

This much is known: Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, the chair of the committee, at first confirmed a complaint had been filed with her committee in a Capitol News Service interview about the sexual harassment allegations looming over Latvala.

A day later, Benacquisto denied confirming the complaint was against Latvala. But she did say a complaint had been filed.

“Chair Benacquisto did not, and will not, confirm that the complaint is regarding any specific Senator, officer of lobbyist,” Senate spokesperson Katie Betta said.

Benacquisto cannot release specifics about the complaints her committee receives because of privacy rules, and Betta declined to say when exactly the committee got the complaint.

Latvala was surprised when he heard the Capitol News Service report. He told Florida Politics he only became aware of it after reporter Mike Vasilinda called him about it, which prompted Latvala to call Benacquisto three times in a four-hour span.

By 10 p.m. Wednesday, he hadn’t heard back.

“Incredible the Rules Chair would blame me for (the complaint’s) failure to be released, but not acknowledge its existence to me!” Latvala said.

Latvala has hired Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys Steve Andrews and Stephen Webster as he faces the allegations, first reported by POLITICO Florida. The probe has already cost the Clearwater Republican his Senate Appropriations chairmanship, at least while the investigation is pending.

As claims continue to cloud Latvala’s reputation, Andrews has asked Senate President Joe Negron to have a retired judge preside over any hearings and that testimony be under oath.

Andrews also wants Negron to have a former law enforcement official conduct the investigation.

The Senate has yet to announce who will be conducting the harassment investigation, but Betta said the list of potential investigators may be ready by the end of the day Thursday.

Ana covers politics and policy for Florida Politics. Before joining Florida Politics, she was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.

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