Pam Bondi calls for legislation to protect sexual harassment victims - Florida Politics

Pam Bondi calls for legislation to protect sexual harassment victims

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Friday said her “heart breaks” for the Senate staffer who in a sworn statement said Sen. Jack Latvala groped her private body parts and sexually harassed her for years, and called for legislation to protect sexual harassment victims.

“I was astonished to learn that one of the victims of the recent allegations in Tallahassee is a woman who I’ve known and respected for years,” Bondi said in a statement.

Rachel Perrin Rogers, a legislative aide to Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, went public with her accusations against Latvala this week saying she was tired of him lying about her intentions and those of her husband, Brian Hughes, a political consultant.

“My heart breaks for her. We must respect the investigation by the Florida Senate and the privacy of all parties involved,” Bondi said.

Bondi encouraged women who have experienced sexual harassment to come forward, and while she did not give specifics, she said she reached out to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who is handling the complaint against Latvala, to preserve a spot for legislation that would “provide protections to victims of sexual harassment complaints.”

Corcoran, who is mulling a run for governor, has called for Latvala to resign. Bondi said he was supportive of a law that would protect all women working in state government.

“It is remarkable what women can do when we all stand together,” she added.

The sex scandal rocking the Republican gubernatorial candidate intensified this week after Perrin Rogers went public and Latvala’s legal team released dozens of text message exchanges in counter defense that showed a cordial working relationship between the two. The complaint detailing the sexual harassment allegations was also made public this week.

Soon after that happened, Gov. Rick Scott said the powerful senator — who is running to succeed him –was a “distraction” in the Legislature.

Latvala slammed Scott for his comment hours later, taking to Twitter to say Scott’s “theft of billions in taxpayers” was also a distraction, referring to his defense in a Medicare fraud case against Scott’s former hospital company.

“I’m sure HCA stockholders thought your efforts to defend yourself in theft of billions from taxpayers was a distraction but you had a right to defend yourself! I have that same right!” he tweeted.

The Senate continues to investigate the allegations of six women, one of them being Perrin Rogers, brought to light by a POLITICO Florida report. There is a separate Senate probe sparked by the complaint Perrin Rogers filed with the Senate Rules Committee.

Latvala’s defense team said there is a sense of “urgency” to wrap up the investigation and that it could be resolved as soon as next week.

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.

1 Comment

  1. Sexual Harassment 2017
    Looking past any damage or unsavory moments that may or may not have happened, this will supplant a legacy. A career of service that helped build the Republican Party of Florida. Decades of service will now be a byline to the allegations made whether proven or not.

    I have watched many stories unfold across the country over the past year. The most volatile and egregious part of this necessary and commendable stand that women have made is the willingness to treat all offenses with the same career ending sentence. This can be likened to a modern day McCarthyism. Make no mistake…there are some very bad people out there that should receive swift and harsh punishment for their actions. There are some that should receive a reprimand and a path to better behavior, and yet others will undoubtedly be snared by the frenzy of public opinion. All these “he said she said” accusations that intensify with the heat of the spotlight change the dynamics of what has and will happen in these cases. We have to decide whether we continue to sweep inconvenient truths under the veil of transparency or open Pandora’s box.

    The fact that there has only been one senator among all legislators, lobbyists, and aides past and present to have allegations brought forth against them is somewhat mystifying to me. There seems to be some strong swimmers in the cesspool. Some willing to take a dive and keep their head underwater as to not witness the sledge floating on top of the pond, others avoid the water all together, and yet others are willing to do the back stroke. I have read for weeks about the cesspool in Tallahassee wondering who was next. Surely there must be more. I have watched with interest as people postured one way then the other rolling with the national tide of distractions. There are some that seem to pick which distractions bother them and which to avoid commenting about at all. This is our moment of truth. What statement are we going to make?

    We cannot begin to rewrite our social contract and create the environment in which we want our children to thrive in without self examination. We cannot continue to dodge the stream of heads as they roll across the political landscape. Remember…we must take a stand, both men and women, if we do nothing…there will be no one left to stand for us.

    As I watched the Florida Channel last session my emotions ran the gamut. In hind sight, that was nothing compared to the special session and all that has followed. This experience is like Florida’s version of a political shock and awe campaign. Seriously, I made popcorn, waiting for the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air.

    There are literally hundreds of lawyers swimming in Tallahassee this time of year. Many of them are the very people entrusted by their constituents to decide the fate of all citizens throughout Florida. These people, the voters that sent a trusted few to those hallowed halls to fight for fair, equitable justice are watching.

    As one voice among them, I must say, the willingness to name one senator among all legislators, lobbyists, and aides past and present is somewhat mystifying to me. I have read for weeks about the cesspool in Tallahassee wondering who was next. Surely there must be more. I have watched with interest as people postured one way then the other rolling with the national tide of distractions.

    The people of Florida are going to vote again soon. If we cannot begin to find common ground and stop the infighting within our own parties, the voters will continue to shift to the middle. As the independent party continues to build clout those bound to the far poles of their party will be left to wonder…who will stand for me? Money adds up…in both large and small increments.

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