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Sexual Harassment Probe Widens

November 6th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

New allegations of sexual harassment surfaced today against Clearwater State Senator Jack Latvala. Seven women, six of them an unanimously, have claimed the veteran legislator has touched them or said something inappropriate. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, The Senator has also temporarily stepped down from his powerful role as Senate budget chair.

State Senator Jack Latvala had told us in a text he would not be talking with reporters before an afternoon committee meeting. He was true to his word.

“Could you at least talk to us about your statement” we asked when he entered a committee room.

“Nah. I’ve said everything I need to say” He responded.

Hours earlier, Latavala sent a letter asking to be relieved of his budget chairmanship temporarily. He wanted to focus on clearing his name.

“It’s disgusting if anybody does that” Governor Rick Scott told reporters in Ft. Myers.

Monday morning, Governor Rick Scott didn’t mention Latvala by name. But he did call for a thorough investigation.

“It’s very important that there is an investigation that we know what happened. If anybody has done anything wrong, they need be out of office” says Scott.

State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto has been charged with finding someone to investigate after the Senate General Counsel, who worked closely with Latvala as committee staff, recused herself.

“There will be a third party, independent, very fair and impartial firm, that doesn’t have any business before the legislature, selected to make sure they can investigate those claims” says Rules Chair Benaquisto.

Finding someone to investigate with no ties to the Legislature  will likely require someone from out of state.

They may have a lot to investigate. 75 year old Barbara DeVane told us she no longer gets hit on, but was harassed back in the 1970’s.

“I was approached by a Representative, and I told him in no uncertain terms that I do not lobby horizontally” she said emphatically.

The Senate is promising new training and guidelines to make it easier for victims to come forward.

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