Court records shed light on Rick Scott administration sexual harassment settlements

FILE PHOTO:    Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks about hurricane relief measures for Florida and Puerto Rico at the White House in Washington

In one case a female Florida Department of Transportation worker was grabbed by the throat and beaten by her male supervisor. He was not fired.

In another, a Department of Corrections worker was photographed fully nude by an inspector who erroneously told her photos of her naked body parts were needed to investigate an inmate complaint against her.

In a third case, a female Department of Health worker was sexually harassed and later put on administrative leave. She was relocated after reporting the incident.

These are snapshots of seven harassment settlements, mostly related to sexual misconduct, agreed to by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration since he took office in 2011, according to court documents obtained by Florida Politics.

The issue is now pervasive in Tallahassee after a series of high-profile sex scandals that have prompted one state Senator to resign and another fighting career-threatening allegations. Though Scott’s administration has escaped recent headlines, court documents show it has not been immune to harassment claims, or settlement payouts, which have totaled $413,750.

While the alleged sexual misconduct happened during Scott’s time in office, the two most recent cases occurred in 2015 and stretch back to 2012. The state has a 30-year history of settling sexual harassment claims, costing taxpayers more than $11 million over the years.

Amid the continued upheaval at the Capitol, Scott announced on Wednesday an executive order that aims to strengthen how his administration handles sexual harassment complaints.

“Every agency was doing it a little bit differently,” Scott told reporters after issuing the executive order.

“What this does is set up a process where we have clear expectations of what the training would be and what the reporting process would be. It’s all just to make sure that we have a process that works,” he said.

But Marie Mattox, the Tallahassee-based attorney who represented five of the seven sexual harassment accusers that received taxpayer-funded settlement payments, said Scott’s executive order does not go “far enough,” and only reiterates what is already in place.

“This doesn’t change things, not even a little. If the governor thinks that this is something different, then he is mistaken,” Mattox said.

One of the cases Mattox brought against the state involved Angela Gardner, an African-American woman working at a FDOT weigh station, who said she was sexually harassed by her supervisor.

She said that in a March 2014 incident, her supervisor was taunting her and told her he could get any woman he wanted, to which she responded, “No you can’t, because you can’t get me.”

His response was to grab her by the neck and beat her head against the wall with such force that it nearly led her to pass out, according to court documents.

Dick Kane, the communications director for the FDOT, said the department reprimanded the employee by suspending him without pay. He also said law enforcement investigated, and that no charges were brought.

In the suit, Gardner said the department did not offer “adequate protections,” and that she was transferred to another weigh station as a solution. Her new supervisor was friends with her former supervisor, though, and he eventually intimidated her to resign in 2015, she said.

The department worked with the Office of Risk Management on this claim and a settlement of $75,000 was agreed upon by both parties.

Mattox said that in the cases she has worked on, women “routinely face some form of retaliation” after reporting sexual harassment.

Sen. Jack Latvala, for example, who has been accused of sexual harassment by a top Senate aide, Rachel Perrin Rogers, is using defense tactics that are seen by some as retaliation. Sen. Lauren Book filed a formal complaint against him, accusing him of interfering with a Senate investigation by publicly attacking and shaming his accuser’s credibility.

As for Scott, whenever he faces questions about the sexual harassment claims rocking the Capitol, he calls them “disgusting.”

“If anybody has done anything wrong, they need to be out of office,” Scott has said in the past.

“There should be no corruption in politics.”

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.

One comment

  • Bob Weir

    December 14, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Law enforcement are the worst perpetrators of sex crimes. And the least to get penalized for their crimes. Scares ,threats,fear mongering and more. Right in their own families too. It needs to come out and when it properly does it will show how very true it is. And how much it is hidden and by who. Protect and serve criminal police should be their motto.

Comments are closed.


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