Sen. Jack Latvala resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations

By Christie Zizo, Digital Media Producer
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 5:07 PM EST

Sen. Jack Latvala has resigned amid an FDLE investigation for sexual misconduct allegations.

Latvala, a longtime Republican lawmaker from Pinellas County, was accused of making inappropriate comments and unwanted physical contact against a female Senate staff member over a period of four years.

Latvala wrote in a letter to Republican Sen. Joe Negron: "I've had enough. If this is the process our Party and Senate leadership desires, then I have no interest in continuing to serve with you." Negron called the resignation the "right decision."

Latvala's resignation will take effect at midnight on Jan. 5.

A state Senate special master, in a report issued Tuesday, said Latvala should be sanctioned and face the FDLE investigation.

The staffer claims Latvala began making inappropriate comments about her clothing and body parts during the 2013 and 2014 sessions. She said she asked him to stop and he didn't. Then in 2015, it escalated to rubbing her thigh while she sat by herself in the bar of the Governors Club Lounge. 

She tendered her resignation to the lawmaker she worked for but returned to work a few months later.

In her resignation email she said:

"Yes, I am under personal stress and that isn't your fault or problem. But even without that I would not be okay continuing to work for the Senate, it is a cesspool. I was trying to clear my head last night in the GC and I couldn't even do that because of Jack Latvala."

The complaintant said Latvala continued with unwanted physical contact in 2016 and 2017. 

Latvala denies the allegations. In testimony to the special master, Latvala said he would not make those kinds of comments to the complaintant because " she is someone who would be very unpredictable with any kind of remarks like that."

In the report of Latvala's testimony, he did admit that he was known to say those kinds of things. The special master said, though Latvala had been through sexual harassment training, he did not recognize those types of comments as possibly offensive.

The special master recommended that the Senate sanction Latvala for being in violation of Senate rules.

The special master also said allegations that Latvala may have traded physical contact or sexual contact for support of legislative initiatives, made by another complaintant, should be referred to law enforcement and to the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The special master also recommended that the entire Florida Senate body, along with its staffers, should go through sexual harassment training, and a review of the culture of the Senate should be conducted.

Gov. Rick Scott was among those calling for Latvala to resign.

In a statement Wednesday, Gov. Scott said: "Now that 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."

Latvala posted a repsonse Tuesday night on Facebook: