Florida senator resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A powerful Florida state senator and Republican candidate for governor resigned Wednesday, the day after an investigation found credible evidence of sexual misconduct.

Republican Sen. Jack Latvala continued to deny any wrongdoing as he announced he's stepping down Jan. 5, and took parting shots at Republican leaders who he said called for his resignation before he could defend himself.

"I have had enough. If this is the process our Party and Senate leadership desires, than I have no interest in continuing to serve with you," Latvala said in a letter submitted to Senate President Joe Negron.

Hours earlier, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi said he should resign. That came the day after former Judge Ronald Swanson issued a report that Latvala likely inappropriately touched a top Senate aide and may have broken the law by offering a witness in the case his support for legislation in exchange for sex acts.

"He did the right thing by resigning," Scott said in a statement issued by his office.

Swanson investigated a formal complaint by Rachel Perrin Rogers, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson. Perrin Rogers accused Latvala of inappropriate touching in a Capitol elevator, at a private club and other occasions. She said on many occasions, Latvala would comment on her appearance by saying she looked "hot" and would stare at her chest as she tried to talk about legislative issues with him.

A former lobbyist whose name was redacted in the released copy of Swanson's report said Latvala would touch her inappropriately, including touching the outside of her bra and panties, every time they were alone in his office. She said he "intimated to her on multiple occasions, that if she engaged in sexual acts or allowed him to touch her body in a sexual manner he would support legislative items for which she was lobbying," Swanson wrote. That included explicit text messages sent to the woman.

A second independent report was released Wednesday detailing similar behavior. A law firm was hired to try to identify and interview six women who made anonymous accusations against Latvala in a Politico Florida article last month.

The lawyers investigating the claims reported they didn't talk to the six women, one of whom was Perrin Rogers. But they said several people among the 54 detailed similar behavior outlined in Swanson's report, ranging from a habit of telling dirty jokes, inappropriate touching and sexual remarks to implications he would trade support for legislation in exchange for sexual favors.

"Senator Latvala made the right decision," Negron said in a statement released by his office. "At all times during this investigation the Senate has afforded all parties the full and fair opportunity to be heard. The Florida Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind against any employee or visitor."

Earlier this year, Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens also resigned after Politico Florida reported that he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. And former state Rep. Rich Workman resigned a position with the commission that oversees the state's utility after state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said he inappropriately touched her and made vulgar comments at a Republican fundraiser.

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