Bradley: “Zero tolerance” for intimidation

Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley seemed to deliver a stern message about allegations of intimidation swirling amid investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Sen. Jack Latvala.

Bradley took over the reins as the Senate budget chief after Latvala was stripped of the post, following allegations that the Clearwater Republican had groped several women over the past few years.

The allegations are the subject of two investigations now underway, including a probe by a special master that could result in Latvala’s expulsion from the Senate.

Bradley spoke to reporters about the events following an Appropriations Committee meeting Wednesday afternoon.

“There is a real chance that at some point in time we’ll be listening to evidence not only of underlying conduct that is alleged, but also potential conduct that has occurred since the allegations have come to light,” Bradley said. “I think it’s important that not only there is zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and verbal abuse, but there also be zero tolerance for any behavior that leads to one feeling like they shouldn’t come forward or feeling intimidated.”

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, yesterday filed a complaint against Latvala with the Rules Committee, which will also decide on the sexual harassment complaint filed by Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson’s chief legislative aide, Rachel Perrin Rogers. Book’s complaint accused Latvala of improperly taking steps to “out” Perrin Rogers, who has hired armed security in the midst of the investigations.

Perrin Rogers accused Latvala of groping her on six occasions over the past four years. Latvala has steadfastly denied the allegations. The rhetoric around the investigations has escalated, with lawyers from both sides releasing text messages and affidavits to the media and supporters of the Senate aide and the senator taking to Twitter and Facebook to air their grievances.

Bradley said he expects the special master report regarding Perrin Rogers’s complaint may be out as early as next week, but he doesn’t know if the Rules Committee will be called in to hold an emergency meeting before the legislative session begins on Jan. 9.

“I do think it’s important that everyone that visits the Capitol, who advocates for or against proposals we consider, that are involved as employees or otherwise, they understand there is zero tolerance for sexual misconduct for verbal abuse or for, even when those allegations are made, for any attempts to intimidate. And that needs to be stated clearly and publicly so that there is no doubt that that is the position of this senator and the colleagues that I stand side-by-side with,” Bradley said.

The special master’s report will be given to the Senate Rules Committee. If the special master recommends dismissal, the committee must dismiss the complaint. The special master, retired judge Ronald Swanson, could recommend censure, reprimand or expulsion. The Rules Committee, headed by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, could adopt his recommendation or come up with its own. 

Benacquisto yesterday effectively killed the appointment of Ritch Workman, a former state representative, to the Public Service Commission. Gov. Rick Scott had nominated Workman for the post, which requires Senate confirmation. But Benacquisto said she would not take up his appointment because Workman manhandled her at a charity event last year. Workman subsequently withdrew his nomination.