Before she filed a sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Jack Latvala, Senate aide Rachel Perrin Rogers allegedly engaged in a pattern of raising claims against fellow staffers at the Senate Majority Office, according to a sworn affidavit released Monday.
But the head of that office, Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, now says it is part of a “smear campaign” against Perrin Rogers, who has been a “trusted and valued member of my team for more than five years.”
Further, Perrin Rogers’ attorney called the affidavit by former Senate staffer Lily Tysinger an “uncorroborated statement” and threatened a libel lawsuit against Florida Politics if it were reported.
And attorney Tiffany R. Cruz now has asked Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor in the case, saying Latvala has committed crimes.
Simpson broke his silence Monday and came to the defense of Perrin Rogers, his top aide. He said her publicly accusing a powerful senator of sexual harassment is not a “political campaign,” but rather about the safety and security of someone coming forward with serious allegations.
“If we do not protect those who speak out, we will silence other potential victims who deserve justice,” Simpson, a future Senate president, told POLITICO Florida in a text.
Latvala defended himself by saying his team has only provided sworn statements that are “scientifically authenticated.”
“In a defense you have to make your case that one party is believable and one is not,” Latvala said. “Sometimes the truth hurts and I am dealing with the truth.
“Why should I have to defend myself for attacking her credibility when she hasn’t backed any of her statements,” he said, referring to Perrin Rogers. “It goes down to my word versus her word.”
Simpson’s statement, however, could be a turning point in the Latvala investigation: A powerful Republican now has slammed the former budget chair’s defense tactics, which have included the release of text messages between Perrin Rogers and him and now a sworn statement by a former Senate staffer.
The affidavit released Monday is by 22-year-old Tysinger, who supports Latvala amid his career-threatening harassment scandal. She said Perrin Rogers boasted about sabotaging people’s careers, and raised allegations against legislative aides and staffers.
One of those rumors, she said, included Perrin Rogers telling the wife of Republican Sen. George Gainer of Panama City that Tysinger was “having numerous affairs with people involved in the political process.”
Cruz said Tysinger’s statements are “a complete lie” and that she would pursue legal action against Florida Politics.
“To be clear, Lillian Tysinger is a campaign volunteer for Jack Latvala, since August of this year. If that fact isn’t reflected in your stories, and if you print any other uncorroborated statements made by her, we will pursue legal action against you and your publication for printing libel,” Cruz said in a text.
Latvala said Tysinger has never been a volunteer, “that I know of.” He added in a text message that Tysinger reached out to his legal team “thru friends” and while he has only met her once or twice “she seems to be smart.”
“Very fine young lady,” he said.
Tysinger claims Perrin Rogers’ comments led to some people being terminated or “re-homed” from the Senate Majority Office. That included Tysinger’s own employment, which she had since November 2016, she said.
POLITICO Florida reported on Nov. 3 that six women — one of them Perrin Rogers now says is her — accused Latvala of sexually harassing and groping them. Two days after that report, Tysinger said she was removed from her position within the Senate Majority Office and transferred to the Senate Secretary’s Office.
“No reason was provided for my transfer, and the demotion resulted in an $11,000 a year pay cut,” Tysinger said.
Cruz has said Tysinger was the only staffer who was ousted from the Majority Senate Office and that it was a result of her “own conduct” and not any action on the part of Perrin Rogers.
Cruz declined to expand on what type of conduct, but in the past said she was removed from her post because she was incapable of telling the truth.
Under penalty of perjury, Tysinger, who had been a low-level staffer, maintained Perrin Rogers made general comments to her about “having sabotaged other people’s careers” and getting a former female press secretary to Simpson “removed” from her post.
Perrin Rogers is the only woman who has publicly accused the powerful Clearwater Republican of sexual harassment. Her grievances, filed with the Senate Rules Committee in early November, have launched two Senate investigations into his alleged misconduct, and include claims of sexual assault and both sexual and verbal harassment.
In the sworn complaint, Perrin Rogers says there were unwelcome sexual comments about her clothes, breasts and legs. And there was a time that Latvala “assaulted” her in a state Capitol elevator, brushing the lower half of her breast and later with his hand attempting to reach her groin, she said.
As the investigation into these allegations escalates, the 35-year-old Perrin Rogers requested an armed guard out of concern for her safety. Cruz said she wrote a letter to Senate President Joe Negron on Nov. 30.
In her request, first reported by News Service of Florida, Cruz said Perrin Rogers faces the threat of “serious acts of retaliation” from Latvala and those who are being “paid to assist him.”
On Monday, Cruz also sent a letter to Scott asking him to assign a special prosecutor to the case, saying Latvala has committed criminal actions. The letter, published by POLITICO Florida, said the request was bring made to determine if criminal prosecution is warranted.
“This request is not made lightly, but to ensure that there is not a dual standard of justice that benefits only the powerful and politically well-connected,” Cruz wrote.
Latvala’s legal team declined to comment on these allegations, but one of his attorneys, Steve Andrews, has said in the past that as part of the powerful senator’s defense they have collected the sworn statements of 22 people.
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