Jack Latvala – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Senate spends $25K on outside attorneys for Jack Latvala probe

The Senate has spent nearly $25,000 in taxpayer money on outside attorneys in connection to the sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Jack Latvala, according to Senate records.

In mid-November, Senate President Joe Negron hired a trio of attorneys from the GrayRobinson law firm to help him navigate the investigation into sexual harassment and groping allegations against Latvala, one of the chamber’s most powerful senators.

Negron sought the help from the Orlando-based firm after the Senate general counsel, Dawn Roberts, recused herself from any involvement in the case, citing a potential conflict of interest because of her close association with Latvala over the years.

Since the contract was signed on Nov. 9, George Meros, who has represented embattled high-profile Republicans in the past, attorney Brian Bieber and attorney Allison Mawhinney have worked a total of 46.8 hours.

The attorneys charge an hourly fee, and according to the contract, their rates are $600 for Bieber, $550 for Meros and $345 for Mawhinney.

The contract with GrayRobinson states the attorneys will provide “legal and consulting services to the Senate” until Negron or his designee decides the services are no longer needed.

In recent weeks, one of the six women who accused Latvala of sexual harassment accused him publicly, intensifying the strategy behind his legal defense, which has led Sen. Lauren Book to file a formal complaint with the Senate Rules Committee, where she accuses him of interfering with the investigation.

Legal battles are also starting to appear even as some senators speculate the Senate investigation may be coming to an end.

Rachel Perrin Rogers, who publicly accused Latvala of sexual assault and harassment, has not ruled out the possibility of suing Latvala, according to her attorney Tiffany Cruz.

Cruz said the lawsuit would not be dependent on whether a special master finds probable cause in the Senate investigation, and the Tallahassee-based attorney may also be eyeing a potential lawsuit against the Senate.

“My client had hoped for a fair and impartial process in the Senate, but due to recent actions, we have serious concerns,” Cruz said.

Last week, Cruz asked the Senate to preserve all records related to the case, including emails, text messages, spreadsheets and documents.

Two days after that request was made, Lily Tysinger, a former Senate Majority Office colleague of Perrin Rogers who has helped Latvala mount his defense with sworn statements that take aim at Perrin Rogers’ credibility, filed a defamation suit against Perrin Rogers.

Cruz said she is “absolutely” filing a counterclaim against Tysinger.

Tysinger’s attorney, Marie Mattox, who has been behind several sexual harassment cases settled with the state, said the case is related to the “unsafe working environment” Rogers created for her at the Senate Majority Office.

November fundraising boosts Adam Putnam to $15.35M on hand

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has more than $15 million on hand for his gubernatorial bid after bringing in nearly $1 million last month between his campaign and committee accounts.

Putnam brought in $267,070 through his campaign account and another $704,550 through his committee, Florida Grown, for a total of $971,620 raised in November.

The Republican’s largest single donor last month was from “Floridian’s United for Our Children’s Future.” The committee, chaired by Ryan Tyson, cut a $100,000 check. Following that were five checks for $50,000, including one from Publix and another from University of Florida trustee and businessman James Heavener.

Florida Jobs PAC, Herzog Contracting and PepsiCo chipped in at the $25,000 level, with a host of additional donors chipping in between $5,000 and $15,000.

Putnam’s campaign money came in through more than 1,000 contributions, including 18 for the election maximum of $3,000.

Publix and Heavener chipped in with max checks to the campaign in addition to their committee contributions. The supermarket chain’s chairman, Howard Jenkins, and his wife Patricia Jenkins also chipped into the campaign account, as did lobbyist Mark Anderson and Tampa entrepreneur Chris Sullivan.

The biggest bills last month came from Forward Strategies, which received $43,430 fo fundraising consulting via Florida Grown, The Tarrance Group which took in $20,704 for surveys, Lockton Affinity, which received a $13,397 payment for insurance, and Direct Mail Systems, which received $11,040 for mailers.

In all, Florida Grown spent $204,714 last month and has $12.83 million on hand, while the campaign account spent $83,730 and has about $2.52 million on hand. Combined, the two accounts add up to $15.35 million on hand.

That total puts Putnam far ahead of all other candidates running for governor, with former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in a distant second place with about $7 million in total fundraising between his campaign and committee accounts.

Putnam’s only major primary challenger so far, Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, has not yet filed his campaign finance report for November, though his committee account saw contributions slow to a halt last month.

Latvala’s fundraising arm, Florida Leadership Committee, finished November with $5,347 in contributions and just under $4 million in the bank. His campaign account had $872,374 on hand at the end of October.

American Bridge takes aim at Adam Putnam

A Democrat-aligned super PAC is taking aim at Adam Putnam with a new website called ProblemPutnam.com.

American Bridge, launched by David Brock in 2010, says it intends on informing Floridians over the next year about what it contends has been Putnam’s priorities in public office since first being elected more than 20 years ago:

“Sweet deals for big business and his own bank accounts, while squarely ignoring the needs and concerns of Florida families.”

Putnam is considered a leading contender to become the next Republican nominee for Governor in 2018. In addition to his prodigious fundraising totals (he has over $15 million cash-on-hand), the only other establishment Republican considered to have any shot at him – Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala – has had his campaign upended by allegations of sexual harassment that could lead to his expulsion from the Legislature.

Two other men considered to be contenders, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, have yet to enter the race.

“Adam Putnam is truly the problem child for Florida Republicans—he’s been cozying up to and making sweet deals on behalf of the lobbyists and donors that keep him in office for decades, all at the expense of Florida families,” American Bridge spokesperson Lizzy Price says.

“Putnam is right in line with Republicans in Congress under the leadership of Donald Trump who give handouts to the rich at the expense of the middle class,” Price adds.

“This will be a long, difficult campaign for Problem Putnam and in the end, Floridians will know that his problems aren’t endearing. They’re dangerous and wrong for Florida.”

The Putnam campaign slammed the site, and American Bridge.

“No surprise to see a super PAC funded by Hollywood liberals George Soros and Michael Moore is terrified to see a strong conservative with a positive vision for our state in the race for Governor,” said Putnam campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis. “This website is a poor-quality, Hollywood production that aims to fool voters into reversing the progress our state has made.”

Soros, the billionaire hedge fund manager, has been a major contributor to American Bridge over the years, including $80,000 earlier this year, according to Open Secrets.

Richard Corcoran

Richard Corcoran’s political committee tops $750K in November

House Speaker and likely gubernatorial candidate Richard Corcoran’s political committee had a healthy stint in November, raising $753,700 – the fourth-highest monthly total since the committee’s inception last June.

From law firms and attorneys alone, Watchdog raised $208,000 last month. The Land O’ Lakes Republican’s committee also received a combined $35,000 from Swisher International and Dosal tobacco companies.

Also dumped into the Speaker’s committee: $100,000 from Voice of Florida Business PAC, $95,000 from Citizens Alliance for Florida and $20,000 from Missouri-based Isle of Capri Casinos.

While Corcoran hasn’t announced a bid for the governor’s mansion, his committee’s expenditures reflect spending indicative of a campaign ahead.

Watchdog spent $106,320 in November, nearly $25,000 of which going to Rapid Loop Consulting and almost $15,000 to Jacksonville-based fundraising consultants Political Capital. The committee also paid out more than $30,000 to Go Big Media, which advertises on its site that it delivers “big wins.”

To date, Watchdog has raised $5.4 million and has $4.6 million banked. November spending saw a dip from the two preceding months.

Corcoran’s fundraising numbers are good enough to put him in the fourth-place spot among declared candidates if he throws his name in the mix for governor.

Far out in front is fellow Republican and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who added nearly $1 million in contributions between his campaign and committee accounts in November and has about $15.35 million on hand.

Next in line is former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat, who also raised $1 million in November, putting his total fundraising at around the $7 million mark.

Embroiled Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, the only other major Republican who has declared, has seen his contributions slow to a halt since six women accused of sexual harassment in early November, but he still about $4.8 million on hand between his campaign and committee account.

Jack Latvala accuser sued by former colleague for defamation

A witness for Sen. Jack Latvala in the sexual harassment case sued his accuser for defamation on Friday, claiming she spread lies about her having sexual encounters with colleagues and about her being mentally-ill.

Lily Tysinger, a 22-year-old Senate staffer, got tangled up in the Senate sexual harassment investigation when she released an affidavit that raised questions about Rachel Perrin Rogers, who filed a sworn complaint against Latvala for sexually harassing her during a four-year period.

Tiffany Cruz, who is representing Perrin Rogers, said the sworn statement Tysinger released this week, in which she suggested Perrin Rogers’ false claims about has an effect on her demotion — and an $11,000 pay cut — , was a “complete lie.”

Marie Mattox, who has built a career around cases related to sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, particularly involving state workers, is representing Tysinger. A few years ago, Mattox and Cruz worked together.

Tysinger had been considering suing Perrin Rogers for defamation since Monday. She pulled the trigger late on Friday and filed the lawsuit in Leon County Court.

Cruz said the complaint against Perrin Rogers, a top aide to future Senate president Sen. Wilton Simpson, is “meritless and frivolous” and will “absolutely” file a counterclaim against her.

“This is absolutely an act of retaliation and intimidation,” Cruz said.

In anticipation of any claims brought in court related to the Latvala sexual harassment case, Cruz sent a letter to Senate President Joe Negron asking him to preserve nearly eight years of records.

In the letter, first obtained by News Service of Florida, Cruz requested emails, texts, voice messages and text message, spreadsheets, images and documents. She also asked him to intervene to prevent the loss of those records.

“I’m asking them to preserve documents related to any claims that may be brought in court,” Cruz said. “It’s a pretty standard evidence preservation request.”

She added that the suit is an example of the intimidation tactics Latvala is using to keep women from coming forward and reporting sexual harassment. Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat from Plantation and a close ally of the embattled Clearwater Republican, filed a formal complaint with the Senate Rules Committee this week accusing him of interfering with the Senate probe into his alleged sexual misconduct.

While the lawsuit brought forth on behalf of Tysinger makes no mention of Latvala, it is directly linked to the information she shared that has helped his legal team build a defense.

Steve Andrews, one of Latvala’s attorneys, said that he was “shocked” to see Tysinger sue Perrin Rogers, even though it had already been reported that she had been mulling the legal battle for a few days.

“I don’t know whether it benefits us or not, we don’t know what to think of this,” Andrews said. “We are reviewing the lawsuit and we don’t know what to think yet.”

In the complaint, she accused Perrin Rogers of attacking her credibility in “credible internet new agencies” that has resulted in her being humiliated and shamed in addition to having damaged her reputation for time to come.

Tysinger is seeking to recover damages of at least $15,000.

As the Senate investigation continues and calls for his resignation gradually increase, Latvala keep on fighting while staying in office.

“My client had hopes for a fair and impartial process in the Senate, but due to recent actions, we have serious concerns,” Cruz said.

Congressman says Jack Latvala Senate investigation is a ‘sham’

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz thinks the Senate sexual harassment investigation into Sen. Jack Latvala is a “sham” and refused to speak to the attorney leading the investigation, according to a POLITICO Florida report.

“The Florida Senate’s ‘investigation’ into Senator Latvala is a sham. I will not validate it by participating,” Gaetz wrote in a letter to Gail Holtzman, the third-party investigator hired by Senate President Joe Negron.

Gaetz said the Senate probe, which has been going on for about a month and has already prompted Sen. Lauren Book to file a complaint against Latvala for interfering with it, is not “serious” because it has not protected “those (Latvala) has harmed.”

“Accusers know it. Senators I’ve spoken know it. And so do I. Sad!” Gaetz wrote in the Nov. 30 letter.

Gaetz, who was the only Republican to go on record with POLITICO in early November when it reported six unnamed women were accusing Latvala of sexual harassment and groping, called the Clearwater Republican an “absolute hound.”

Joe Negron: Sexual misconduct inquiry not slowing down process

Senate President Joe Negron covered a vast array of topics —including nursing homes, tax breaks, gambling and the state’s $85 billion budget — during a nearly hour-long pre-Session interview with The News Service of Florida this morning.

The news team was warned beforehand that questions about the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment levied against Sen. Jack Latvala by a high-ranking aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson were off limits.

The News Service of Florida tried to tap-dance around the restriction, but Negron, a lawyer, stuck closely to comments he’s already made about the investigation and the charges, which have rocked the Capitol and caused what one Republican senator called “paralysis” in the upper chamber.

Even Gov. Rick Scott called Latvala — a Clearwater Republican who insists he is innocent and that he is a victim of a political smear campaign — a “distraction” and said that “it seems that everyone in Tallahassee is talking about this and not how to make Florida better.”

The governor’s critique came more than a week ago; since then, there’s been almost a daily development in the increasingly toxic battle.

But Negron, a Stuart Republican headed into his second and final Legislative Session as the man with the gavel in the Senate, disagreed that the drama has eclipsed all other business in the Senate.

“That’s not what I see. I’m visiting with senators constantly and talking about projects. There are bills being referenced,” he said. “A lot of bills have been filed. Committee meetings are moving forward. Some bills have been voted down. Some bills have been voted up. So, I think that the people’s business is being done. And we’re going to let the process that’s set forth in our rules move forward and then there will be a resolution.”

Negron relied on talking points from memos distributed in the early days of the investigation, launched after a POLITICO Florida story early last month detailed the allegations against Latvala, when asked if the revelations exposed activity in the Capitol that had been kept under wraps for years.

“In the Senate we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment. We have zero tolerance for any mistreatment of any senator, of staff, of guests and citizens who visit us in their Capitol. That has always been our policy and will continue to be our policy. I believe that the vast majority of individuals who work in the Capitol treat people fairly, treat people appropriately, and show respect to everyone in the process,” the president said.

Negron reiterated that he wants individuals who’ve been the victim of sexual harassment to come forward.

Rachel Perrin Rogers has accused Latvala and his supporters of retaliating against her and her husband, GOP political consultant Brian Hughes. The Senate aide hired an armed guard to protect her in the Capitol, and Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, this week filed a complaint against Latvala, accusing him of “outing” Perrin Rogers.

“With regard to the specific instance where there’s been a complaint filed that’s being investigated, the process will move forward,” Negron said, referring to the sexual harassment complaint Perrin Rogers lodged against Latvala. “There will be an outcome to that. And I’m committed personally, in my own role as the Senate president, that we’re going to respect the rights of everyone in the building and that any person who feels that they’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct should feel free to confidentially come forward and report that and it will be dealt with appropriately.”

When pressed about whether the Florida Legislature was caught up in the #MeToo wave that’s gripped Congress and statehouses around the country, Negron demurred.

“In the culture generally, there’s enhanced attention to this issue. That’s a good thing. In terms of what happens in the Senate and in the Capitol, I’ll stand by my assessment that the vast majority of elected officials conduct themselves appropriately and treat people in this process with respect and in a business-like manner,” he said.

Andrew Gillum questions Senate Democrats’ silence on Jack Latvala

While the Florida Democratic Party has called for Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater to step down in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment, only two of the 15 Democratic senators have followed suit.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum says that may be because of the institutional structure and the nature of relationships in the Senate, but he says that Latvala’s “attack dog” tactics are why he should resign.

“What you have in the Florida Senate is a lot of close relationships, a lot of folks who know each other, and a real unwillingness to enter into the divisive fray of having a colleague step down,” said the Tallahassee mayor, following an appearance at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange Friday morning.

“These are uncomfortable positions all the way around for everybody, but it does require leadership.”

One Democratic senator speaking out is Lauren Book, who earlier this week filed a formal complaint alleging that Latvala violated Senate rules by aggressively going after his one public accuser, Senate aide Rachel Perrin Rogers. She has accused Latvala of groping her and using degrading language to describe her body over a four-year period.

“I’ve been most disheartened by what appears to have been a full-on intimidation and attack dog approach when it comes to the victim,” Gillum said.

Last Saturday, Perrin Rogers’ attorney, Tiffany R. Cruz, asked the Office of Legislative Affairs to provide armed security for her client this week as she entered and exited the Capitol and worked in her office.

Gillum said the toxic level of fear that necessitated the request for security was a “horrible way to handle a sexual assault claim in the Florida Legislature.”

“That alone is enough for the Senate, and Senate leadership, to put his party, the institution, the health, the safety, the welfare of those individuals above his own personal interests there.”

An investigation is continuing on Perrin Rogers’ original charges of sexual harassment against Latvala. The Clearwater Republican has denied the allegations, saying the claims are political because he’s running for Governor.

Jack Latvala’s fundraising slows to a halt in November

Gubernatorial candidate and Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala has been fighting back against sexual harassment allegations for more than a month, and the press reports haven’t helped in pull in money for his campaign.

Latvala entered the GOP Primary for governor back in August and after a hot start, his contributions slowed to halt in November after six women told POLITICO the longtime lawmaker had sexually harassed them during his time in office.

Latvala denies the allegations and vowed to clear his name, calling the report ‘fake news.’

Latvala’s fundraising arm, Florida Leadership Committee, finished October with $234,000 in contributions and more than $4.1 million in the bank, much of it left over from his battle to become Senate President.

In November, however, FLC took in just one check for $5,000 from the Florida Association of Health Plans PAC, with another $347 coming by way of interest, but that didn’t keep the committee from spending some of its reserves.

FLC spent nearly $160,000 last month, and had spent another $36,000 through the first week of December.

According to documents on the committee website, $50,000 of that money went to the Republican Party of Florida, more than $37,000 was spent on printing and mailers, $10,000 went to Champion Digital Media for advertising alongside several research, strategy, fundraising and political consulting contracts clocking in at a few thousand a piece.

Latvala is currently one of two major Republicans running for Florida governor. If his campaign weathers the storm, he faces termed-out Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and likely a couple more contenders, such as House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Gwen Graham to ‘chummy’ politicians: ‘When I’m Governor, the party is over’

After saying that politicians in Tallahassee treat Session and committee weeks like it’s “spring break,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham said Thursday that if she becomes Governor “the party is over.”

“It’s time our public servants truly serve the people and that can only happen when politicians stop serving themselves,” Graham said at a press conference.

The former congresswoman said that should start with Sen. Jack Latvala, who is facing multiple sexual harassment allegations. She called on him to resign, again. If Latvala does not step down, Graham said, the Senate should expel him.

Graham stopped short of saying Senate Democrats should take a caucus position and call on the powerful Senator to step down, arguing that it should not be a “partisan issue.”

Minutes before, however, she said the Republican-controlled Legislature, with Gov. Rick Scott at the helm, is to blame for the “crisis in confidence” elected officials are facing today because of sexual harassment and conflicts of interest.

“Republicans, they own this because they have been in total control,” she said.

If elected, Graham vowed to take steps to combat sexual harassment across all state agencies. Her plan includes appointing an independent investigator to oversee complaints about workplace harassment who could refer cases to the attorney general for full prosecution under the law.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King also unveiled a plan to clean up the Florida Capitol. In a statement, he said that if elected he would create an Office of Victim Advocacy under the Florida Division of Ethics — a department that does not exist, but likely meant the Florida Commission on Ethics — to handle sexual misconduct complaints. And would require any claim of sexual harassment or assault made against a government employee to be reported to the office within two days.

“If we want to bring ethics and accountability to Florida, we need to create an environment that supports victims and allows them to come forward without fear of retaliation,” King said.

Latvala is also facing claims that he is intimidating sexual harassment victims from coming forward by using defense tactics that aim at publicly shaming his accuser, Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top aide to the future Senate president, Sen. Wilton Simpson.

Sen. Lauren Book, a close ally of the 66-year-old senator, filed a formal complaint with the Senate Rules Committee claiming Latvala was interfering with the Senate investigation by his approach in fighting the sexual harassment claims in the public eye.

Amid the Senate investigation that has been going on for a month now, Scott has called him a “distraction” and senators have slowly called on him to resign. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is likely to announce his bid for the governor’s mansion after Session, told a national audience this week that Latvala was “heading toward expulsion.

The Latvala sex scandal could be seen as ammunition in the governor’s race. And as the only woman in that race, Graham said she has the “ability to talk about this in a way that resonates with everyone,” because she too has experience sexual harassment.

While she would not go into detail about her #MeToo story, she said that it happened a “long time ago.”

When asked if the back-to-back sex scandals rocking the Capitol in recent weeks have had an impact on her professional life, or the women in her orbit, she acknowledged that there’s been tension.

“I personally have not been treated differently, but I have heard that,” she said. “I’ve heard that at the Capitol men are afraid of getting in an elevator with women, I’ve heard that.”

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