Florida Democratic Party president accused of ‘enabling’ chair’s inappropriate behavior
Stephen Bittel and Sally Boynton Brown.


As Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel resigns in disgrace, the state party’s president, Sally Boynton Brown, came short of defending his inappropriate behavior toward women by saying she never experienced it and that she was “heartbroken” women did not feel comfortable coming to her with complaints.

But two former staffers, who asked Florida Politics to not identify them for fear of getting a bad reputation in the political process, said Brown was well-aware of Bittel’s systematic workplace misconduct, which included him asking women about their sex lives on a daily basis. The former staffers said Brown enabled his behavior.

“He would do it in front of Sally,” one woman said. “He was really into talking about sex, and if you went along with his conversations he would be more amicable to working with you.”

The women, who are in their 20s, said it was their impression that Bittel’s behavior worsened after she took the job in May because she allowed it to go on.

“He would say, ‘at your age you must be having lots of sex,'” one woman said. “He was very systematic with this and he would only say it in front of women.”

In a letter to party members, though, Brown said she never experienced it and that he always treated her as a “full-partner.”

“In my experience, Chairman Bittel has been refreshingly open to feedback, given by myself and others, about his conversational style and modified his approached when he learned that others found it off-putting.” Brown said in a letter to party members.

The women said they were upset when they read Brown’s letter because she put the responsibility on victims to come forward when she knew about the misconduct as a top staffer and did nothing about it.

“She is trying to cover her ass (with the letter) and it is disgusting,” one woman said.

The other woman said it was only a matter of time before Brown was criticized for the letter because her saying she never witnessed his misconduct was “obviously not true.”

In the letter, Brown said the state party’s sexual harassment policy has been under review for the past few month and that efforts to change the “culture” at the Florida Democratic Party have been ongoing.

Moving forward she is suggesting hiring a personnel director to oversee staffing manners, updating the sexual harassment policy to include “all types of bullying and harassment,” and employ a third-party personnel committee for harassment reporting purposes.

Her recommendations to improve the state party’s sexual harassment policy and culture are a stark contrast to her approach in a Nov. 12 memo to staff, where she wrote “sexy harassment” instead of sexual harassment when going over a staff retreat schedule to do an overview of the personnel policy.

Bittel’s abrupt departure comes at a time of turmoil at the state Capitol, as he and two other lawmakers — Sen. Jack Latvala and Jeff Clemenshave recently been accused of acting inappropriately toward women in the legislative process.

Latvala, who has been accused of sexually harassment and groping by six unnamed women in a POLITICO Florida report, has said there is a political overtone to the claims. Brown is saying the same in the wake of Bittel being criticized.

As Bittel resigns in shame, one thing has been apparent as elected officials condemned his behavior: it was along party lines, only no Republican chimed in. All four Democrats running for governor called for his resignation, and Democrats in both Congress and the state Legislature, however, called his behavior disgusting and said it was good for the party to have him step down.

“I am dismayed to hear people piling on and making this into a political fight or sensationalizing these women’s very tragic experiences instead of demanding justice and solutions to ensure no women has these stories to tell again,” Brown said in the letter.

Ana Ceballos

Ana covers politics and policy Before joining the News Service of Florida she wrote for the Naples Daily News and was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.


  • Christopher M. Kennard

    November 19, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    As an Independent who fled the rank dishonesty, unpatriotic insistence of party over people and party over loyalty to America, I cast a curse upon both “houses” — the Democratic Party and the Republican Party — to fall into the ruined state of affairs these political parties are leading our country into, before we, the American people, are dragged all the way down to the bottom of this “bog”. Be gone, I say, and good riddance.

    Both political parties have long been controlled by an element of the 1% mega wealthy. This relatively small number of people on the international scene of politics who hold concentrated wealth and power are corrupt and determinedly seeking to continue their control over our economic system, the distribution of wealth created by working men and women, from poor and middle class to the “top” of the richest class, seizing our remaining natural resources along the way.

    Divisive, destructive policies followed by both parties in their effort to control the American people for their “masters of the universe” led the world to near ruin, today. It is not hard to see.

    As a man who is over 65 years old, who has always been involved one way or the other on the grassroots level of the political arena, I have watched, learned and have come to fully understand the truths of which I write here today, and on many occasions in the past.

    Yes, we face great powers raised against us, yet we surely do have the means to counter and “evaporate” the steam of the evil forces arrayed against us. We truly can achieve peace, equality and near perfection of balance within the realm of economics, political power, and create common bonds between a vast majority of all Americans. It was the vision of our “founders” to do so, the living beauty of our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, formulated despite the restrictive nature of the times.

    We the people do have the power to govern our nation in the way the greater majority of us would prefer. We have this power through our vote. When we decide to abandon the flawed processes of our current political parties and reach out to one another, one voter to another, to find and enact resolutions and solutions to the issues we face, then we will have realized the full potential of our political system of governance; a democratic republic founded on equality of all men and women without exception; a dream yet to become reality.

    I have been involved since the days of1967 on, from when Dr. Martin Luther King merged the long term Civil Rights Movement together with the emerging Peace Movement at the end of LBJ’s war against the Vietnamese people, that further developed into the equality movement between male and female from 1968 on to today. As someone who greatly appreciates women — always my equal partner in all endeavors — I am heartened and encouraged by the movement to erase gender based inequalities, sexual misbehavior and paternalistic attitudes still held by many men today.

    The information and networking by women and men now coalescing to achieve the elimination of most vestiges of sex based discriminatory behavior within our society will be one of those issues best resolved in great part through our collective power of the majority vote. Insofar as I am concerned, it is simply one aspect of the civil rights movement in which I had joined back in the 1960’s and intend to see through in my lifetime, if possible.

    Despite the ongoing bitterly divisive political divisions, the existence of many people’s individual blindness to these issues and the slow growing awareness of the significance of this historical change in attitudes taking place at this time, in our next two rounds of elections, in 2018 and 2020, we may well find an over-whelming wave of good honest astute women with personal, professional and political integrity campaigning in every local, state and national election for public office, equally and fully capable of governing our nation, and in the larger international arena as this equal rights movement progresses, the world.

    Political party tags will fall by the wayside, given the current corrosive corruption of both establishment wings of the two major political parties, just as political parties have fallen before. New political parties will arise, and this is where our opportunity for the future emerges. It is the people’s peaceful “political revolution” not carried out by the smoking barrel of the gun but through the peaceful, productive process of a fair vote for all. A “Peace and Equality For All” platform to create a new political party for the path forward.

    We have had one independent candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who campaigned on the platform of integrity run for President in my lifetime who was honest, intelligent and capable of bringing our people together as a cohesive whole, instead of where we are today, a divisive, divided population, with segments of people set against one another in the age old proven concept of “divide and conquer”.

    Bernie Sanders gave us a non-gender, non-partisan, non-monetary basis for conducting a national election that works up and down the pipe line of elections, from local to national, which is how Bernie Sanders did it.

    Seen in the light of a man, born by a woman who instilled good solid values and a belief of simple equality, who has created and co-existed within wonderful Love relationships with women who always were my “equal,” my best mentors, perhaps my “better half” in most instances, as well as having an adult daughter undaunted by the world who is moving ahead, I have a vested interest and desire to be part of the majority forming a clear vision of who were are and where we wish to go from here.

    It is “our” opportunity in human affairs to truly balance the “yin” and “yang” of our species, and move on ahead, accordingly, in balance with the rest of the universe for a positive change in pace and direction.

    May we create and enjoy Peace, Love, Light within us, with us and among us all, always . . . !

    • Laurie

      November 20, 2017 at 2:40 am

      Christopher, that reads like a manifesto. Please tell me you don’t own a gun……

  • Sharon Kolor

    November 19, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Christopher M. Kennard, I agree with you as far as it goes. I too hold the truths to which you refer, but I see our world full of as many truths as there are people. For instance, although Bernie Sanders stood for much more progressive change than anyone else, he is not perfect and his presidency would have had its own problems, just like every other presidency. Our political “saint,” Abraham Lincoln, has recently been found to support anti-slavery when the Union army needed more soldiers. His Emancipation Proclamation did not include all states either. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not faithful to his wife. How far would he get today? Very little is black and white. It’s mostly gray. (Are you still reading? LOL! I use too many words. Sorry.) My other point is that we are in perhaps the peak of transition from a male-dominated society to a more equal male/female led society. Transition is messy. I embrace it and welcome it. We’ve needed to do this for a long time. Hopefully, African Americans will also experience a new wave of transition. They have suffered in ways that white people just don’t get – me included. I welcome that messiness too. Finally! A chance to make changes. People elected President Obama twice because he promised Change, which he delivered. But the other side fought tooth and nail, because that is what happens. For every action, there is an equal reaction. Trump promised Change too. I think that is why he was also elected, in spite of all his flaws. People want change, and at the same time, we resist change. It’s human nature. I believe in taking opportunities where they happen. Trump has made a lot of people angry; hence the outcry against sexual harassment and against fair treatment for all. We will never be perfect. I choose to support what I think can move forward to a better world. I think you are doing the same. One of my favorite meditations is Desiderata. Here is an excerpt:
    “You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. “

  • Sharon Kolor

    November 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    …Not “against fair treatment for all!” — FOR fair treatment for all.

  • Laurie

    November 20, 2017 at 2:54 am

    Ana, that type of reporting is usually called a “hatchet job”. You base your entire article on the word of 2 women, whom I’m sure you don’t know and have no idea, other than what they say, is anything near the truth. You then take a misspelling of “sexy” and turn in into a federal offense. Have you never misspelled or had the computer spellchecker screw up? SMH!!
    I read the Tampa Bay Times, Washington Post, NYT and many others every day. I hate to say it but this is the worst article I think I’ve ever read. For all I know you made it up. It has no verifiable FACTS in it at all. Please, the next time you have to write a story, don’t make it a story, aka hatchet job, make it worth reading with some solid FACTS in it.
    Sally Boynton Brown is an extremely intelligent, insightful and energetic person. Obviously, you don’t know her. She has a desire to see the Democratic party come together and succeed as never before here in Florida. Your depiction of her is despicable. You never even ask for a quote from her, did you?
    The more I write the madder I’m getting so, I’ll close by saying, next time, put some actual facts in your “story”. Thank you!

    • J Tucker

      November 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Sally would have done a great job for Democrats in Florida.

  • NJ

    November 20, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Laurie, well said!

    • Laurie

      November 21, 2017 at 8:44 pm

      I really disappointed that Ana didn’t answer my comment. You wrote it, you own it, Ana.
      I hope your next article doesn’t do the amount of damage that this article did! Shame on you!!

      • Elizabeth

        November 22, 2017 at 11:18 pm

        What in the world is wrong with you?!! Why are you defending a person, specifically, another woman, who enabled repeated, continuous sexual harassment of other women?

        Did you not read Brown’s statement, “In my experience, Chairman Bittel has been….open to feedback…about his conversational style.” That is an admission by Brown that she was aware of Bittel’s offensive behavior.

        Are you saying you won’t believe these women unless they say it to YOU? They can repeat his sexual comments to other Democratic leaders and to the media, but because you don’t hear it coming out of their mouths and they don’t produce recordings, you don’t believe them? Will you believe it when the other shoe drops?

        Have you considered Brown’s motivation for defending him? She is being accused of enabling him. How would that look on her resume?

        Yes, Ana used a few inappropriate phrases, trying to sensationalize the story, but the gist of her article is reporting the facts.

  • Disappointed

    November 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Laurie summed up most of my thoughts.

Comments are closed.


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