Jack Latvala – Page 6 – Florida Politics

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.

Jack Latvala won’t allow sexual harassment report ruin holidays

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.”

__

Sen. Jack Latvala posted on Facebook Tuesday night that he’s not going to let politics spoil Christmas.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, posted on his Facebook page a few hours after the release of findings from a outside investigation saying he likely had committed sexual harassment against a Senate staffer.

The report also recommended an allegation that Latvala had offered a quid pro quo of sex-for-votes to a female lobbyist “be immediately referred to law enforcement for further investigation.” He did not address any of the details in the report.

“The timing of the special master’s report tonight has created some special problems for me,” the 66-year-old senator wrote.

“I have a medical procedure scheduled for tomorrow/Thursday after which I have committed to go to Mississippi to see my stepdad and brother for the first time since my mother died this summer, then (I) will go be with my family for Christmas.

“If there is one thing that I have learned the last couple months, it’s the value of my family, so I am not going to let their holiday be consumed by politics,” he added.

“I will be back in Tallahassee on Dec. 26 and will meet with my legal and political team then to consider the future. I will not have any further comment until at least then.

“I appreciate the many gestures of support tonight more than you will ever know. Thank you for your friendship.”

The post generated almost 50 comments by 9 p.m.

For instance, Jason Steele, director of government affairs at Smith & Associates, commented, “My thoughts and prayers have been with you from the very beginning of this mess. I believe in you, and ultimately this will all work out for the best.”

And Betsy Sullivan Collins, a former Senate employee, wrote, “Jack, we have been friends for over 25 years. You have always been above reproach. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thank you for all the good work you have done for the State of Florida.”

Bombshell charges abound in Jack Latvala report

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 special master’s report on Sen. Jack Latvala dropped Tuesday afternoon — and it was more scandalous and horrifying than most would have imagined.

The report documents testimony from a former lobbyist that Latvala offered to trade legislative actions for sex. The report also includes graphic testimony from the Clearwater Republican’s primary accuser, Rachel Perrin Rogers, and others.

Some names were redacted from the report before it was turned over to the public.

Latvala denied the events as described. But it will ultimately be up to the Senate to decide his fate in the chamber because the report found probable cause Latvala engaged in the accused behavior. The report also recommends the alleged votes-for-sex propositions be turned over to criminal law enforcement for further investigation.

Here are the most relevant details of the report:

____

From leering to groping: Perrin Rogers describes what happened when she confronted Latvala about his behavior.

Things just got worse, per her account:

“Senator Latvala made unwelcome and unwanted comments about my clothing, my breasts, and my legs. If I had to approach him about a bill or an issue on behalf of my boss, he would stare at my chest and look me up and down without giving any indication if he was listening to the public policy issue I was there to discuss.

“On one occasion, I responded to his comments about my body and told him if he continued to comment on my physical appearance, I would respond by calling him what he is: an obese, disgusting and dirty old man. My reply, intended to discourage him, instead had the opposite effect. He stopped making verbal comments and on at least six occasions since that time, subjected me to unwanted physical touching/grabbing/groping.”

Perrin Rogers also noted, “If I had to talk with him 100 times those two years, probably at least 30 of those times he made me feel uncomfortable with either the way he was looking at me or he made comments about my appearance, what I was wearing, that I was attractive.”

Those comments, often, weren’t even English.

When Perrin Rogers went to talk to Latvala about a legislative issue, he growled at her. Another encounter involved an “MMMM.” And a third involved the senator — one of the most powerful men in the state — saying she looked “hot,” asking if she’d “lost weight.”

Latvala addressed such comments, claiming to have discretion on who would be “offended” and who would “appreciate” them.

____

The Cesspool: In February 2015, Perrin Rogers asserted that she ran into Latvala at the Governor’s Club, a prominent, members-only social club in Tallahassee. 

She said Latvala sat down next to her at the bar, draped an arm across the back of her chair, and then he put his hand down and just started rubbing the top of the thigh area of her left leg. He was rubbing his hand ‘back and forth’.”

Perrin Rogers confided in Caitlin Murray.

She was “ready to leave her job because she was so upset,” Murray reported.

Per Murray, Perrin Rogers told her, “I swear to God, he uses his body to block people and to block what he is doing with his hands.”

Rogers wrote her boss, Sen. Wilton Simpson, to resign in 2015.

She told Simpson the Senate was “a cesspool. I was trying to clear my head last night in GC (Governors Club) and I couldn’t even do that because of Jack Latvala. I left there very upset.”

Perrin Rogers resigned, then returned to employment with Simpson by the end of 2015.

Before coming back, she attempted to change to make herself less of a target.

“From what I know about the years that I have spent around Senator Latvala, he views women in a few different ways. There are women who he helps and respects, but doesn’t bother doesn’t bother in the way that he’s bothered other women, in the way that he’s touched or said things. I thought that if I sent this [a text message referencing a big hug], I thought I could appeal to him emotionally, and then I would be safer when I came back.

“I thought that I could and in an effort to do that, I also know that most of the time all of the times that I have had problems with him, my hair has been blonde, or lighter, and so at this time, I dyed my hair dark before I went back to the Senate.”

That strategy didn’t work, according to her account.

___

Blocking: “He leaned in and sort of blocked my path and stopped me…. And he reached around and squeezed….his hugs were never, like, a, you know, front frontal arms around your back. He would put one around and squeeze on the midsection and just very tight and [with] his hand.”

____

It kept happening: “Ms. Rogers testified as she sat alone at the bar, Senator Latvala approached her, talked with her briefly, and then reached around and did the side grab. She testified Senator Latvala touched her abdomen and midsection; he was squeezing and he moved his hand to the underside of her breast.”

____

Donuts: On one occasion, Perrin Rogers testified that before Latvala had left a room, she was touched inappropriately.

“It was less of a grab than the previous times. But he just briefly squeezed on my love handle section,” Rogers said.

This happened after, of all things, Latvala allegedly throwing a fit about donuts not being available.

Latvala denied her account: “I find that just impossible to believe that happened. I mean, I would remember if I would have done it. I wouldn’t have hugged her at the end of a conversation. I wouldn’t have hugged her period. I mean, I just, I don’t hug Rachel. I haven’t ever hugged Rachel.”

____

Elevator 13: The worst incident Rogers described, arguably, was one in an employees-only elevator in a parking garage at the Capitol.

“Ms. Rogers testified that after she gained access to Elevator 13, Senator Latvala ‘reached around and, I mean, really just lower than he had ever reached before towards I mean, I don’t know how else to say that, like, my vagina, my midsection, my breast – and grabbed … This time it was further in front and I know because it was different from the other times because it was so painful.'”

Rogers claimed to have physical pain for months after that.

“He squeezed and I yelled… He laughed. He chuckled. I went ‘Whoa’ like that. And he chuckled, and the elevator ride was over, and I got off.”

Sen. Simpson corroborated.

“Senator Simpson testified he recalled that Ms. Rogers reported to him that Senator Latvala had groped her or touched her on an elevator during the first committee week in October.”

____

Grey Goose and groping: Ms. Rogers testified Senator Latvala was sitting on the far end of the couch in Senator Simpson s personal office and Ms. (redacted) was sitting in the middle of the couch. Ms. Rogers testified she saw Senator Latvala rubbing the side of Ms. (redacted) breast with his hand, and at one point, put his hand inside her clothing. Observing this made her feel upset and angry. Ms. Rogers testified Ms. (redacted) looked distressed by Senator Latvala’s conduct and pushed his hand away several times.”

____

A second account: “Ms. (redacted) testified that between 2015 and 2017, Senator Latvala touched and groped her in an unwelcome manner every time she went to his office, and that she believed tolerating such behavior was part of her job as a lobbyist. If she went to his office in the Capitol and the door closed, she pretty much [was] always touched. Ms. (redacted) stated that Senator Latvala placed his hands up her dress, touched the outside of her underwear at her vaginal area, her buttocks, and her breast.”

The second account, thus far anonymous, “confirmed that Senator Latvala would place his hands on a woman’s waist and move his hand up and down the side of her body. This testimony corroborates Ms. Rogers account of the Elevator 13 incident as well as her description of Senator Latvala touching her midsection on four occasions during the 2016-2017 Legislative Sessions.”

She further testified that “Latvala 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.”

The report also said the accuser left the business. She didn’t want to feel like she owed Latvala anything.

Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran pulling in committee cash in December

It’s only been a few days since November campaign finance reports were filed, but gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam and his likely Republican Primary rival House Speaker Richard Corcoran have kept the money rolling in to their political committees.

Putnam’s committee, Florida Grown, has brought in another $135,000 since the start of December according to the committee’s website.

The biggest donor so far is Coral Gables investment banker Bruce Berkowitz, who chipped in $50,000 on Dec. 6. Florida Crystals and real estate developer Wayne Rosen, also of Coral Gables, each chipped in $25,000, while the committee received $10,000 a piece from SWBG Operations Group, G-T Consulting Service Inc. and Committee of Florida Agents. Peter V. Cowie of Palm Beach Gardens chipped in the other $5,000.

Putnam finished November with more than $15 million on hand between his committee and campaign accounts, with $12.83 million of his cash on hand in Florida Grown.

Corcoran hasn’t yet declared as a gubernatorial candidate, though in December he has added another $113,000 to his committee, Watchdog PAC, after bringing in more than $750,000 last month, and starting December with about $4.7 million on hand.

His top donor in the early days of December was MHM Services, which chipped in $40,000, followed by Florida Prosperity Fund at $20,000 and Anheuser-Busch at $15,000.

Currently the only other major Republican running for governor is Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, who has been fighting back against sexual harassment allegations for more than a month.

His contributions slowed to a crawl last month and his PAC, Florida Leadership Committee, hasn’t reported any new December contributions since last updating its totals on Dec. 6.

The committee had just shy of $4 million on hand Nov. 30, and Latvala had another $808,062 in the bank for his campaign account.

Gus Bilirakis backs Ed Hooper for Florida Senate

Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper announced Thursday that U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis is backing his campaign for the Florida Senate seat currently held by Jack Latvala, who faces term limits in 2018.

“I am excited to have a partner to work with in Ed Hooper. I know of few better prepared to work on the issues important to Tampa Bay area citizens. Ed has dedicated his career to public service, especially helping our first responders and heroic military servicemen and women,” Bilirakis said.

“I look forward to working with Ed to ensure that our communities are the best places to work, live, and play. I am proud to support him as the next Senator for Florida District 16.”

Hooper touted the endorsement from Bilirakis as well as his fundraising numbers for November, which showed him with $60,000 in new money between his campaign and committee accounts.

“I made a push this past month. I am extremely pleased with the response received,” Hooper said. “I want December to be a quiet month so everyone can enjoy time with family, friends, and in the spirit of the season.”

Hooper has called the Clearwater area home for 45 years, including 24 years working for the city’s fire department. He served in the House from 2006 through 2014, when term limits forced him to retire and spent his three years out of the Legislature working as a consultant.

Currently, he is the only Republican candidate in the race, though he faces a challenger in Democrat Bernie Fensterwald, who had about $4,200 in his campaign account at the end of November.

By the same date, Hooper had $235,335 in his campaign account with another $93,098 on hand in his political committee, Friends of Ed Hooper.

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.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons