Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a statement of strong support Friday for the woman who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of “unwanted physical touching/grabbing/groping” on six occasions over four years.
Latvala’s alleged sexual harassment is the subject of two separate investigations currently underway. Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top Senate staffer, came forward this week and identified herself as the woman who filed complaints with the Senate Rules Committee and Senate President Joe Negron’s office.
Without naming Rogers, Bondi said she was “astonished to learn that one of the victims of the recent allegations in Tallahassee is a woman who I’ve known and respected for years.”
“My heart breaks for her. We must respect the investigation by the Florida Senate and the privacy of all parties involved,” Bondi went on.
Latvala has vigorously denied the allegations, relying on more than 200 text message exchanges between the senator and Rogers that portray, at least on the surface, a cordial if not friendly relationship.
Bondi’s statement isn’t the first time she’s weighed in on the allegations against Latvala.
Last month, she called on the unnamed women in the POLITCO Florida report, which first revealed the sexual harassment accusations against the Clearwater Republican, to identify themselves.
“As a career prosecutor, I would say that you have to come forward. Someone has the right to face their accuser. It can’t be done under the condition of anonymity. So, you have to come forward. As a woman, I’d say please come forward,” she told reporters on Nov. 7.
On Friday, Bondi said she reached out to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto to hold a spot for “legislation that could provide protections to victims of sexual harassment claims.”
“I encourage any woman who has been sexually harassed to come forward and allow their voice to be heard,” Bondi said in the statement.
“I look forward to working with the legislature this session to formulate laws that protect all women working in state government. It has been remarkable what women can do when we all stand together. FLORIDA MUST BE A LEADER IN THIS MOVEMENT,” she concluded.