Latvala on leave from committee post; Scott weighs in on allegations

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, talks to reporters in August after launching his campaign for governor in Hialeah. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Facing a Florida Senate investigation of allegations he has groped and harassed women, state Sen. and Republican governor candidate Jack Latvala is taking a temporary leave of absence from his powerful perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The status of Latvala’s GOP bid for governor was not immediately clear. He has vehemently denied the allegations, which were initially reported by Politico based on accounts from six unnamed women who work in in the Capitol as lobbyists or legislative staff.

Gov. Rick Scott today weighed in on the matter for the first time, calling the allegations “disgusting.” The News Service of Florida quoted Scott as saying: “It’s very important that there’s an investigation and we know what happened. If anybody has done anything wrong, they need to be out of office.”

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announced this morning that he has installed Sen. Rob Bradley as Appropriations chairman while Latvala is investigated. Negron’s announcement was accompanied by a letter from Latvala requesting temporary leave “until this matter is resolved.”

Latvala, in his letter, added: “I look forward to defending myself against these untruthful allegations and believe I will be fully exonerated.”

Politico reported that it spoke to six women who said Latvala “inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies.” Politico said the women making the accusations did not want to be identified because they feared losing their jobs or other reprisals.

 

 

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