Rachel Perrin Rogers

Latvala accuser’s lawyer puts Senate on notice

A lawyer representing Rachel Perrin Rogers, the high-ranking Senate aide who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of groping her on numerous occasions over the past four years, has asked Senate President Joe Negron to preserve nearly eight years of records in anticipation of a lawsuit regarding the alleged sexual harassment.

In a letter sent to Negron Wednesday, lawyer Tiffany Cruz asked that Negron preserve “documents, tangible things, and electronically stored information potentially relevant to the claims which may be brought against the Florida Senate and Senator Jack Latvala.”

“This letter comes in anticipation of litigation under related to violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chapter 760, Florida Statutes, and other statutes related to such violations and the concomitant conduct which my firm has been retained to investigate,” Cruz wrote.

The federal Civil Rights Act protects against employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin. The statute referenced by Cruz in the letter deals with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Complaints filed with the state commission and/or its federal counterpart would be the first step in pursuing a civil action against against the Senate or Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who maintains he did not touch Perrin Rogers inappropriately.

The request for records includes emails, texts, voice messages and instant messages, as well as documents, spreadsheets and images.

Cruz asked that Negron not only preserve records dating back to Jan. 1, 2010, but intervene to prevent loss due to routine operations or malfeasance and employ proper techniques and protocols to preserve” the records.

Negron, R-Stuart, has remained tight-lipped about Latvala, amid twin investigations into the sexual harassment allegations. A special master who’s conduct a probe for the Senate Rules Committee is said to have completed his interviews, and his report — and recommendations — could be released any day.

 

 

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.

UPDATED: Latvala accuser seeks armed security in Capitol

Rachel Perrin Rogers, the high-ranking Senate aide who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of groping her and making lewd comments about her physical appearance, has asked for security guards when she returns to the Capitol tomorrow.

Perrin Rogers, the chief district legislative assistant to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, came forward last week and identified herself as the woman who accused Latvala of sexual harassment on several occasions over the past few years.

Perrin Rogers’s lawyers, Tiffany Cruz, sent a letter to Negron on Thursday blaming Latvala and his supporters of forcing Rogers to go public, and accusing the Clearwater Republican and his paid minions of “engaging in serious acts of retaliation” against Rogers, “both directly and indirectly through attempts to harm her spouse’s employment.”

Perrin Rogers is married to Brian Hughes, a GOP consultant and former spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott whose clients include attorney general candidate Frank White and Baxter Troutman, who’s running to succeed Adam Putnam as ag commish.

Tiffany Cruz, Perrin Rogers’s lawyer, said she wants a Capitol Police or Florida Department of Law Enforcement officer to be assigned to the Senate staffer as she enters and exits the building and while she’s in her office because she doesn’t feel safe.

(We originally wrote that the request for security came after a whistleblower complaint was filed Friday, which is true.

But Cruz said late Sunday evening she was unaware that the complaint had been filed, until reading about it in this post.)

The complaint, filed with the secretary of the Senate Friday, accuses Perrin Rogers of “displaying a pattern of harmful and retaliatory behavior” toward Lily Tysinger, a former Senate Majority staffer who’s backed Latvala in the increasingly toxic sexual harassment investigation.

“Ms. Perrin Rogers is requesting that someone from Capitol Police or FDLE be provided to her this week while she will be working in the building. She would like someone to be with her when she comes in the building from the garage and when she leaves as well as to remain in her office area whenever she is there,” Cruz wrote to Office of Legislative Affairs General Counsel Allison Deison in an email sent Saturday morning.

Perrin Rogers “does not feel safe with Lily Tysinger in the building and having access to her and her office in light of Ms. Tysinger’s past and present conduct,” Cruz wrote. “If this is not an option, please advise so we can independently retain a law enforcement officer to be present.”

Several hours later, Deison replied that her request had been received.

Tysinger filed a whistleblower complaint Friday accusing Perrin Rogers of numerous workplace violations, including “engaging in a pattern of conduct” designed to “intimidate me due to my status as a witness” in the Senate investigation into Latvala’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Again, Cruz said late Sunday she was unaware of the complaint, which came a day after Cruz asked Negron to intervene on Perrin Rogers’s behalf because of intimidation.

“While the Senator has the right to deny the allegations, he does not have the right to spread false and defamatory information about the complainant to the public in an effort to discredit her claims,” Cruz wrote. “I expect that as his employer, you will ensure that this retaliatory conduct is not tolerated.”

Negron’s spokeswoman, Katie Betta, did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend. Cruz said Saturday she had not yet heard back from the president or his aides.

When asked whether Negron had approved the security guard, Betta said she could not comment.

But, in a text late Sunday evening, Cruz said the request had been denied.

Latvala’s lawyer, Steve Andrews, denied that the senator’s team had done anything to intimidate the senate aide or her spouse.

“Absurd,” he said in a text message.

Cruz also asked for — and was granted — extra staff to essentially provide a buffer for Perrin Rogers, whose office is located near Simpson’s inside the Senate Majority Office.

“Since next week is a committee week and my client will be back in the Capitol working, she said it would be helpful if the Majority Office could have a receptionist and/or administrative assistant sitting out front. This would prevent people from coming in to her office without permission,” Cruz wrote in an email to Deison Wednesday.

“The Senate will make sure that there is an assistant in the front of the Senate Majority Office next week,” Deison wrote back Friday morning.

Senate aide received nearly 38 percent pay hike in one-year period

Rachel Perrin Rogers, the Senate aide who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of groping her on multiple occasions, received an 11.5 percent pay hike days before she filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Clearwater Republican.

The Nov. 1 pay hike brought the annual salary of Rogers, who serves as the district chief legislative assistant to House Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, to $70,908, according to Senate personnel records.

Rogers, 35, has accused Latvala of “unwanted physical touching/grabbing/groping” on at least six occasions over the past four years.

Latvala has repeatedly denied engaging in any unwanted physical contact with her or other unnamed accusers.

Rogers is a well-connected aide whose husband, Brian Hughes, is a GOP political consultant. Latvala has accused the pair of being part of a political conspiracy intended to force him out of the governor’s race and the Senate.

Rogers this week publicly acknowledged that she had filed complaints against Latvala, the same day he and his lawyer, Steve Andrews, released more than 200 text message exchanges between the Senate aide and the senator showing what appeared, at least on the surface, to be a chummy relationship.

Rogers told POLITICO Florida, which broke the news about the allegations against Latvala, that she left the Senate in 2015 because of an interaction with the senator at a private club near the Capitol.

She returned to the Senate as an aide to Simpson, R-Trilby, in December 2015 at a salary of $51,456. A year later, she received just over a $10,000 pay hike, according to Senate records. This October, she — like all legislative staff — received a $1,000 pay increase, in addition to the $8,156 increase in November.

Tiffany Cruz, Rogers’ lawyer, said she believed the pay increase was approved on Oct. 27, and directed questions about the reason for the raise to the Senate.

Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Joe Negron, said the recent raise was requested by Simpson, and was authorized on Oct. 25.