Jack Latvala Archives - Page 3 of 63 - Florida Politics

Jack Latvala’s political committee money await decisions

With Republican agriculture commissioner candidate and state Sen. Denise Grimsley‘s decision Wednesday to give to charity the money her political committees received from Jack Latvala, numerous others may also be pondering what to do with the millions of dollars he has donated from his committees.

Latvala, who resigned Wednesday afternoon after damning reports emerged from investigations of sexual harassment allegations against him, has overseen some of the more powerful and generous political committees in Florida Republican politics, making almost $2 million in political donations to his colleagues, his party and other political organizations in the past three years.

Latvala continues to deny any wrongdoing, instead he said perhaps he did not keep up “with political correctness.”

Shortly after his resignation from the Senate, Grimsley swiftly announced she was donating $72,000 [originally announced as $62,000, then updated] that she had received from Latvala’s political committees to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the first publicly-announced renunciation of the former Florida Senate Appropriations Committee chairman’s political donations.

Latvala’s primary political committee, Florida Leadership Committee, has contributed about $1.9 million to other campaigns and political organizations in the past three years, including $400,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $161,500 to Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy.

In the latest campaign finance disclosures, Florida Leadership Committee reported having nearly $4 million left unspent. Two other committees reportedly under his control, Sawgrass PAC  and Twenty-First Century Florida Committee, each had less than $10,000 left. The future distribution of that money also is uncertain.

The money poured into those committees in checks of $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000 over the years from business groups such as Associated Industries of Florida’s The Voice of Florida Business PAC, the Florida Retail Federation’s FRF Political Committee and the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Florida Jobs PAC; labor unions including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; wealthy Republican backers such as Miguel Fernandez of Coral Gables, Paul T. Jones II of Connecticut, and Bill Edwards of Treasure Island, and other interests such as health care, sugar, tobacco, dog racing, horse racing, and optometrists.

The outpouring of money from those committees to other political committees and candidates slowed dramatically in the past year as Latvala began positioning himself for a run for governor, a campaign he officially opened in August.

Presumably, the money donated prior to the 2016 election was spent on the 2016 election.

Since Dec. 1, 2016, Florida Leadership Committee has donated about $300,000 to political committees and candidates other than Latvala himself or his other committees. That has included $170,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, shortly after Latvala pledged financial support to it at the fall quarterly meeting when he announced his candidacy for governor.

The committee also donated $50,000 to Grimsley’s Saving Florida’s Heartland Committee; $45,000 to Seamless Florida, the committee supporting Rick Baker‘s failed run for St. Petersburg mayor this fall; and $5,000 to the Committee for Justice, Transportation and Business.

Donations ranging from $300 to $3,000 were made to county Republican executive committees in Flagler, Walton, Seminole, Pinellas, and Okaloosa counties, and to the Florida Federation of College Republicans. Individual donations of $1,000 to $3,000 were made to 19 different Republicans running for Florida Senate or House seats in 2018.

The other two committees Latvala controlled have been far less active, but still have made spot contributions. Twenty-First Century Florida has made $23,480 in contributions over the past three years, with $16,000 of that coming in the past year. That included $10,000 to Saving Florida’s Heartland, and $4,000 to individual candidates’ campaigns. Sawgrass Political Action Committee has made $46,000 in donations in the past three years, but only $4,000 in the past year, all to individual candidates.

FDLE building

Law enforcement reviewing Jack Latvala sexual misconduct case

The state’s law enforcement agency is reviewing sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Jack Latvala outlined in two Florida Senate investigations that concluded he may have violated state corruption laws by offering to support legislation in exchange of “a sexual encounter.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Wednesday it is conducting a “preliminary review” of the allegations, a move that was recommended by special master Ronald V. Swanson, who conducted an investigation into a formal complaint by Senate staffer Rachel Perrin Rogers.

As Swanson interviewed witnesses, one of them “seemingly confirmed in text messages” that Latvala was willing to trade physical contact or sexual intimacy for legislative favors, an allegation that could violate state public corruption laws.

The Senate complied with Swanson’s recommendation and turned over “certain testimony in his report” to law enforcement, according to the Senate’s communications director, Katie Betta.

“Regarding the Senate’s investigation into Senator Latvala, Tallahassee Police Department received the initial information and provided the information to FDLE,” said Gretl Plessinger, a spokesperson for the department.

On the same day FDLE said the case was being reviewed, a second report from Tampa-based attorney Gail Holtzman looking into anonymous claims of sexual harassment against the veteran lawmaker was released.

Latvala resigned shortly after.

The second report included testimony from several women, one of whom said she was “worn down” from his sexual advances.

“He grabbed her buttocks, kissed her mouth, and put his hand in the top of her dress, grunted in her ear, and made a sexual comment,” Holtzman’s report said. “She states that she tried to stop his advances, but he wore her down.”

Latvala’s attorney, Steve Andrews, said he still has concerns about how the Senate handled the investigation, and that the powerful senator did not have a chance to defend himself against public corruption allegations, which Andrews called “misguided.”

He said Latvala would “most likely” take the case to Circuit Court because his due process rights were violated in the Senate’s investigative process.

‘Quid pro quo’ mentioned in second Jack Latvala sexual harassment report

Sen. Jack Latvala used his outsized influence to grope and otherwise sexually harass women in The Process, and intimidate them and others into keeping quiet about it, according to the latest report released Wednesday into misconduct claims against the longtime lawmaker.

The report was released just minutes before Latvala’s decision to resign from the Senate was made public. The resignation is effective Jan. 5, his letter to Senate President Joe Negron says.

The 66-year-old Clearwater Republican also asked at least two women, apparently lobbyists, some variation of “what do I get,” suggesting he was willing to vote ‘yes’ for a bill if he received a sexual favor—an allegation that first arose in a separate investigative report released Tuesday.

And Latvala was able to get away with his behavior because those in his orbit feared that, if they complained or reported him, “wrath would come down on them.”

Tampa-based attorney Gail Golman Holtzman was hired by the Florida Senate to look into harassment allegations detailed by six unnamed women in a POLITICO Florida report. One later revealed herself as top Senate staffer Rachel Perrin Rogers.

Rogers and the other women eventually declined to talk to Holtzman, who went on to speak with 54 witnesses with knowledge of the allegations, including Senators, Senate staff, and lobbyists. Some interviewed told Holtzman or another investigator that Latvala would not have done such things.

Others told different stories.

“One witness reported that when she met with Sen. Latvala to conduct business, he closed the door, gave her a big hug, grabbed her buttocks, kissed her mouth, and put his hand in the top of her dress, grunted in her ear, and made a sexual comment,” the report said.

“She stated that she tried to stop his advances, but he wore her down,” it added. “The witness shared information about her historical personal relationship with Sen. Latvala. The witness stated that the conduct at the time of the meeting was not welcome and that for a period of time before this meeting, she tried to avoid Senator Latvala so that he would not ‘hit on her.’ ”

Another witness account corroborated this pattern of action, with the claim being that Latvala told a woman that “she lost weight, put his arms around her, hugged her tightly, pulled her in at the waist, grabbed her buttocks and grunted in her ear.”

Another witness described a pattern of “forward, flirty and suggestive” behavior from Latvala that lasted “decades.”

Such behavior included Latvala asking “What do I get?” in connection with her work, “a suggested quid pro quo for sexual favors based on a steady pattern and constant ‘hitting on her.’ ” That included being told to come sit by him on an office couch.

Latvala also used his position to create a climate of fear, with yet another woman saying “she had seen him scream and yell when angry, and that if someone is on his ‘bad’ side, he can be aggressive and punitive.”

Female lobbyists, this witness said, were afraid to come forward because that would jeopardize their careers. “Wrath would come down on them,” claimed another witness.

“The witness stated that they are dependent on others to get policy through, and staffers are dependent on a job,” according to the report. “The witness provided an example of why individuals might be concerned about coming forward by describing having observed Latvala using an expletive while telling a colleague never to question or challenge him again after the colleague raised a question about a bill (he) presented.”

Other examples include him calling together a small group meeting, then saying to one of the participants about another: “Did you tell her what I told you what I wanted her to wear?”

He went on: ” ‘I see you have your pearls on, but the request was nothing but.’ “

Another account revealed a Latvalian preference for a female staffer who was “cute, young, new.” And still another alleged that Latvala wanted a female staffer to sit on his lap.

As Latvala fought the career-ending allegations, the claims inspired Attorney General Pam Bondi to call for legislation that aims to protect sexual harassment victims, and Gov. Rick Scott — who had called Latvala a “distraction” — issued an executive order to strengthen sexual harassment policies in state agencies under his authority.

Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski contributed to this post.

 

The end: Jack Latvala resigns from Florida Senate

In the face of two damning reports this week on his alleged serial sexual harassment, state Sen. Jack Latvala on Wednesday resigned from elected office.

The 66-year-old Clearwater Republican said in a statement to Florida Politics he “never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.”

He first served in the Senate 1994-2002, then returned in 2010. Latvala was term-limited next year.

He added that his “political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me.”

Latvala admitted, however, that he “ … perhaps (had not) kept up with political correctness in my comments as well as I should have.”

The special master’s report, which was made public Tuesday afternoon, found Latvala “on multiple occasions” offered to trade his vote for sex with a female lobbyist, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate, which recommends the sexual harassment allegations against the veteran lawmaker be investigated by criminal prosecutors. The bombshell finding came toward the end of Special Master Ronald V. Swanson‘s report into a complaint filed by Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top legislative aide for future Senate President Sen. Wilton Simpson, in which she accused Latvala of sexually harassing her and assaulting her.

A second investigation into sexual harassment claims against Latvala, prompted by a POLITICO Florida story, has turned up a witness who bolsters an allegation that the senator would offer to trade sex for favorable votes on legislation.

This story is developing.

UPDATE:

Florida Senate President Joe Negron released a statement on Latvala’s resignation:

“Senator Latvala made the right decision. At all times during this investigation, the Senate has afforded all parties the full and fair opportunity to be heard. The Florida Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind against any employee or visitor. The allegations in this complaint, and the resulting Special Master’s Report, describe behavior that violates the public trust.

“In the Florida Senate, we are fortunate to have some of the most qualified and dedicated professional staff I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Many of our professional staff members have served this body for decades and will be here long after our public service comes to an end. There is no place in the Senate for misconduct directed against anyone.

“Actions taken by the Senate since these allegations surfaced conclusively demonstrate that we take any allegation of inappropriate behavior with the utmost seriousness. As Senate President, I am committed to ensuring that we all have a safe workplace to do the people’s business. Moving forward, as public and private entities around the country review their own policies related to sexual and workplace harassment, the Senate is also participating in this important dialogue. Led by Chair Benacquisto, the Senate is working to update its administrative policy on sexual and workplace harassment to make it even more abundantly clear to everyone that they can, and should, report harassment to anyone with whom they feel comfortable.

“Just as we have done in this matter, any allegation of sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind will be promptly and thoroughly investigated. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that all parties have due process, a fair investigation, and appropriate remedies.”

The text of Latvala’s resignation letter:

Dear President Negron:

It has been my honor to serve my constituents in the Tampa Bay area in the Florida Senate for 15 of the last 23 years. I have worked hard and tried to do what I thought was in their best interest and those of the state of Florida. I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

Our country has been caught up in a movement to shine a spotlight on behavior that dishonors women. Even though I have spent my entire career helping women advance in public service, such as the 14 current female judges in the Sixth Circuit whose campaigns I ran, my political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of women, I have been steadfast in my efforts to promote them professionally, but perhaps I haven’t kept up with political correctness in my comments as well as I should have.

I have maintained that the charges in the original complaint our fabrications and say that still today. Unfortunately, except in the one instance where there were third-party witnesses, the Special Master took the word of the accuser over mine on every count. He also went outside the realm of the original complaint and unknown to me introduced an entirely new issue into the process that I had no ability to challenge or rebut.

That was followed this morning by supposed leaders in the Republican party calling for me to resign. All of this occurs today even though we still have anonymous accusers with no opportunity for me to have the privilege our U.S. Constitution affords to confront our accusers in cross-examination.

But, I have had enough. If this is the process our Party and Senate leadership desires, then I have no interest in continuing to serve with you. I, therefore, will resign my seat in the Florida Senate at midnight, January 5, 2018.

I regret that my district will not be represented during the Session, but the timing has not been mine. I feel that if I avail myself of the constitutional protections that all Americans believe we have, the Session will end up accomplishing nothing else for all other Floridians.

May God bless us all!

 

Marco Rubio called for Jack Latvala resignation

Update:

Jack Latvala resigned from the Senate Wednesday afternoon. In a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Latvala wrote: “I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

“My political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me,” Latvala said, before maligning “supposedly [sic] leaders in the Republican party calling for me to resign. All of this occurs today even though we still have anonymous accusers with no opportunity for me to have the privilege our U.S. Constitution affords to confront our accusers in cross-examination.”

__

As embattled Sen. Jack Latvala deals with an unspecified medical procedure, Florida Republicans are performing his political autopsy in the wake of the devastating Special Master’s report.

The latest major Republican to call for Latvala to leave the Florida Senate: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

In a pen-and-pad briefing in Washington Wednesday morning, Rubio said that, though he hadn’t read the report and its charges that range from offering to trade votes for sex to serial sexual harassment, if “what articles put out are true,” Latvala should resign for those “grotesque” actions.

Rubio is the latest high-profile Republican to call for Latvala’s resignation.

Gov. Rick Scott, in a brief statement, said that since “the special master report is complete and probable cause has been found, it is time for Senator Latvala to resign. Resigning is the best thing he can do now for his constituents, colleagues and the state.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — a primary opponent of Latvala — weighed in almost immediately after the report dropped Tuesday evening.

“Now that the investigation is complete and its findings of probable cause and the referral of the most serious allegations to law enforcement, it is time for Senator Latvala to resign,” Putnam said.

Even as the state’s most prominent Republicans are condemning Latvala and calling for him to exit the stage, some are conspicuous in their silence.

Blaise Ingoglia, chair of the Republican Party of Florida, has not responded to media inquiries from this outlet on this matter.

Since September, the Florida GOP has banked $170,000 from Latvala’s political committee.

Florida Politics asked Ingoglia if the cash-strapped party plans to refund that money, but have yet to hear back.

Jack Latvala sexual harassment probe could lead to criminal charges

UPDATE – JACK LATVLA HAS RESIGNED. That story is here.

Updates before the resignation:

— A second investigation into sexual harassment claims against Jack Latvala, prompted by a POLITICO Florida story, has turned up a witness who bolsters an allegation that the senator would offer to trade sex for favorable votes on legislation. That story is developing.

— Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday morning called on Latvala to resign from the Florida Senate. That story is here.

— Latvala’s attorney, Steve Andrews, said his client didn’t know about a quid pro quo allegation that the senator offered his favorable vote for legislation in return for sexual favors. That story is here.

— The Senate has turned evidence against Latvala over to law enforcement, a move recommended as part of an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the veteran lawmaker. That story from POLITICO is here.

— The senator posted on Facebook that he’s not going to let politics spoil his family’s Christmas. That story is here.


Sen. Jack Latvala “on multiple occasions” offered to trade his vote for sex with a female lobbyist, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate, which recommends the sexual harassment allegations against the veteran lawmaker be investigated by criminal prosecutors.

The bombshell finding came toward the end of Special Master Ronald V. Swanson‘s report into a complaint filed by Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top legislative aide for future Senate President Sen. Wilton Simpson, in which she accused Latvala of sexually harassing her and assaulting her. (That report is below.)

After interviewing dozens of witnesses for more than a month, Swanson found probable cause that Latvala has “inappropriate physical contact” with Perrin Rogers, pushing forward an investigation that could lead to the powerful senator’s expulsion.

“The evidence demonstrated a progression in conduct, over time, from unwelcome comments and nonverbal behavior to unwelcome touching,” Swanson wrote in the report.

Testimony about the votes-for-sex accusation, however, “raises issues of public corruption and ethics violations not within the scope of this report,” Swanson wrote. The allegation “is supported by explicit text messages.”

Allegations of “quid pro quo conduct (physical contact or sexual intimacy in exchange for support of legislative initiatives) made by a witness other than the complainant …, appear to violate ethics rules, and may violate laws prohibiting public corruption,” he added, recommending “these allegations be immediately referred to law enforcement for further investigation.”

“I just did not foresee this going down this way. None of my legal team foresaw this going down this way. I really thought we were in pretty good shape,” Latvala told the Times/Herald Tuesday night. “I’ve got to figure out how much I’ve got to spend, and how much emotion I want to put in it, since I’m term-limited anyway.

“I can fight this, and we can fight about it all session,” he added. ” … I haven’t even read the whole complaint. I just skimmed through it … I’ve got to see what the next step is.” Latvala has stepped down from his influential perch as Senate Appropriations Committee chairman while the investigation is underway.

Swanson, a retired appellate judge, interviewed an unnamed Senate employee who previously worked as a lobbyist and has known the 66-year-old Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, since 1995. Her name was edited out of the report released to the public.

“For a number of years, (she) had a close personal relationship with Sen. Latvala that was, at times, intimate. (She) testified that when Latvala became engaged to his current wife, she thought the sexual nature of her relationship with (him) would stop. It did not,” the report said.

From 2015 through 2017, Latvala “touched and groped her in an unwelcome manner every time she went to his office, and she believed tolerating such behavior was part of her job as a lobbyist,” according to the report.

“Latvala placed his hands up her dress, touched the outside of her underwear at her vaginal area, her buttocks, and her breasts,” it said.

Latvala also “expressly intimated to her on multiple occasions, that if she engaged in sexual acts or allowed him to touch her body in a sexual manner he would support particular legislative items for which she was lobbying,” Swanson wrote. The woman told him she “felt it was something (Latvala) felt entitled to.”

The most recent text message “purportedly from Latvala concerning possible support for legislation in exchange for a sexual encounter was sent in February of 2016,” the report said. The woman “testified she finally left her work as a lobbyist in large part so she would never have to owe (Latvala) anything.”

The female employee told Swanson she doesn’t Perrin Rogers know well, but her “testimony is corroborative of allegations contained in Ms. Rogers sworn complaint,” according to his report.

The findings detailed in the report will now be reviewed by the Senate Rules Committee on Jan. 11 — two days after Session starts — and they will consider the recommendations made by Swanson. He said a “full range of available sanctions should be considered” against Latvala and also recommended sexual harassment training for Senate members and staff, and a review of the Senate “culture.”

If the committee, chaired by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, recommends a punishment, which could range from a reprimand to expulsion, it would have to be imposed by a two-thirds vote of the full Senate.

If he is expelled, the Republican gubernatorial candidate will “most likely” take the case to court, said one of his attorneys, Steve Andrews, citing concerns over “procedural due process” during the Senate investigation.

Perrin Rogers, 35, filed a formal complaint Nov. 5 with the Senate Rules Committee alleging Latvala assaulted her, touched her inappropriately at a bar, and subjected her to verbal sexual harassment for four years.

Throughout the investigation, Latvala vehemently denied the allegations and in an attempt to defend himself, his legal team released sworn statements from witnesses that took aim at Perrin Rogers’ credibility.

That included an affidavit from Lillian Tysinger, a former Senate Majority Office colleague of Perrin Rogers who claimed she boasted about sabotaging people’s careers.

Latvala received backlash for his handling of the investigation, and Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat and close ally of his, filed a formal complaint and accused him of interfering with the investigation.

She denounced his defense tactics as a public attack on Perrin Rogers, which could deter other sexual harassment victims from coming forward. She did not call on him to resign.

Book was not the only one. The 39-member Senate was mostly mum during the investigation. Just two of the 15 Senate Democrats called for Latvala to resign, even when the Florida Democratic Party called on him to do so.

But as Latvala fought career-threatening allegations, those claims inspired Attorney General Pam Bondi to call for legislation that aims to protect sexual harassment victims, and Gov. Rick Scott — who called Latvala a “distraction” — to issue an executive order to strengthen sexual harassment policies in state agencies in the executive branch.

The Senate has yet to conclude a different investigation stemming from sexual harassment allegations detailed by five other unnamed women in a POLITICO Florida report. Leading the investigation is Tampa-based attorney Gail Holtzman.

Her findings will go to the Office of Legislative Services.

Here is the report:

Rick Scott on Jack Latvala: It’s ‘time to resign’

Update:

Jack Latvala resigned from the Senate Wednesday afternoon. In a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Latvala wrote: “I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

“My political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me.”

___

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday called for Sen. Jack Latvala to resign.

A brief statement from his office came the morning after an investigative report released Tuesday said Latvala, a 66-year-old Clearwater Republican, likely had committed sexual harassment and offered to trade his favorable vote for legislation in return for sex with a female lobbyist.

“Now that the report is complete and probable cause has been found, it is time for Sen. Latvala to resign,” Scott said. “Resigning is the best thing he can do now for his constituents, colleagues and the state.”

Scott’s turn against his former ally was expected, given the shocking nature of the allegations in the report, investigated by a retired appellate judge.

Latvala had stood with Scott, a Naples Republican, during the last Session as the Republican-controlled House, under Speaker Richard Corcoran, tried to kill VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, two of Scott’s most favored agencies.

“He’s going to stand with us all the way through, and he’s going to take a lot of arrows for doing it,” Scott said in March. “I can tell you he’s got broad shoulders and can do it.”

(Hat tip to Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout.)

Attorney: Jack Latvala was blindsided by bribery allegation

Update:

Jack Latvala resigned from the Senate Wednesday afternoon. In a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Latvala wrote: “I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

“My political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me.”

__

The Tallahassee attorney for embattled state Sen. Jack Latvala said his client didn’t know about a quid pro quo allegation that the senator offered his favorable vote for legislation in return for sexual favors.

Latvala had “on multiple occasions” offered to vote for bills a certain female lobbyist was trying to get passed if she would have sex with him, according to an investigative report released Tuesday. The allegation “is supported by explicit text messages.”

The new charge, part of a probe into sexual harassment claims against the 66-year-old Clearwater Republican, caught many in The Process off guard — including most of Latvala’s most fervent supporters.

After interviewing dozens of witnesses for more than a month, retired appellate Judge Ronald V. Swanson found it likely that Latvala had “inappropriate physical contact” with top Senate staffer Rachel Perrin Rogers, pushing forward an investigation that could lead to the powerful senator’s expulsion.

Allegations of “quid pro quo conduct (physical contact or sexual intimacy in exchange for support of legislative initiatives) made by a witness other than the complainant (referring to Perrin Rogers) …, appear to violate ethics rules, and may violate laws prohibiting public corruption,” he added.

Swanson recommended: “These allegations be immediately referred to law enforcement for further investigation.”

Latvala’s lawyer, Steve Andrews, told the News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam that Latvala was never given an opportunity to respond to what amounted to a bribery allegation. It wasn’t included in the original complaint the special master looked into, he said.

“Sen. Latvala never had notice of the allegations outside the complaint, and if we had, we could have rebutted them and provided context to the allegations referenced in Judge Swanson’s report. That’s a gross violation of due process and fundamental fairness,” Andrews told Kam.

When contacted by Florida Politics, Andrews referred back to the NSF interview.

Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that as of Wednesday morning the agency had “not received a referral from the Senate. It could come to us but not necessarily.”

A request for comment also is pending with Tallahassee State Attorney Jack Campbell.

His predecessor, Willie Meggs, once investigated the practice of lawmakers taking trips with and gifts from lobbyists, which resulted in the Legislature enacting what’s now known as the “gift ban.”

Meggs, who retired earlier this year, also prosecuted former House Speaker Ray Sansom on charges he schemed to get a $6 million appropriation into the 2007 state budget to build an airplane hangar for a major Republican donor. Meggs dropped the case mid-trial in 2011 when the judge rejected a key prosecution witness.

Capital correspondent Ana Ceballos contributed to this post from Miami. 

Despite damning charges, state police union backed Jack Latvala to the end

Update:

Jack Latvala resigned from the Senate Wednesday afternoon. In a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Latvala wrote: “I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

“My political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me.”

__

Florida’s Fraternal Order of Police is the highest profile organization to endorse embattled state Sen. Jack Latvala in his gubernatorial bid.

Conferred in October after the State Lodge Board meeting in Jacksonville, the FOP endorsement wasn’t necessarily surprising; back in August, when Latvala announced his candidacy in Hialeah, Florida FOP President Robert Jenkins was in attendance.

Latvala, a supporter of defined-benefit pensions for law enforcement, often has aligned with FOP priorities throughout his career.

However, in light of the revelations from the blistering special master’s report on Latvala, one that lays out multiple allegations of sexual harassment of women in the workplace, including an accusation of attempting to exchange legislative support for sexual favors that could merit law enforcement investigation, the FOP is at a crossroads.

Can the police union credibly support a candidate who very likely could be expelled from the Senate, and investigated by law enforcement for his actions?

While that question may be resolved as soon as today, it hasn’t yet been settled, per State FOP Legislative Director Lisa Henning.

A conference call with FOP leadership is pending. As FOP is a membership-driven organization, Henning couldn’t make a statement Wednesday morning.

Even as Latvala resigned from the Senate, the FOP was still silent.

Adam Putnam says ‘it is time’ for Jack Latvala to resign

Update:

Jack Latvala resigned from the Senate Wednesday afternoon. In a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Latvala wrote: “I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

“My political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me.”

__

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called on Sen. Jack Latvala to resign for the first time following a damning report by an independent Senate investigator that could lead to criminal charges.

“No person, in any setting — and certainly not in the state Capitol — should be subjected to this behavior,” Putnam said in a statement.

Putnam is the front-runner in the governor’s race and is facing Latvala for the 2018 GOP nomination.

While they are political opponents, Putnam shied away from calling on him to resign when the sexual harassment allegations first came to light early in November. Instead, he said the Legislature should investigate and “ensure victims may be heard without fear or reprisal.”

After special master Ronald Swanson released the report on Tuesday, Putnam quickly changed his tone. After interviewing dozens of witnesses, Swanson found probable cause that the powerful Clearwater senator inappropriately touched Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top Senate aide, for several years. He also found probable cause that the powerful senator engaged in other sexual misconduct with female lobbyists, including offering to trade his vote for sex.

The sexual “quid quo pro” finding, Swanson wrote, was confirmed in text messages and may violate public corruption laws. He recommended the matter be “immediately” referred to law enforcement.

“Now that the investigation is complete and its findings of probable cause and the referral of the most serious allegations to law enforcement, it is time for Senator Latvala to resign,” Putnam said.

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