By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
December 4, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A special prosecutor has been requested to investigate claims of sexual harassment in the Florida Capitol as the situation continues to escalate.
The request comes following the hiring of a private security firm to protect the woman who is making the claim.
The letter, dated Sunday, requests a special prosecutor to look into an incident involving senate staffer Rachel Perrin Rogers. Lawyer Tiffany Cruz says her client was the victim of battery after unwanted touching by State Senator Jack Latvala.
Governor Scott's General Counsel, Daniel Nordby, says he reached out to Cruz regarding the letter.
Nordby said, "Our office clarified that the governor does not have authority to act until a matter is pending before a state attorney and following an investigation by local law enforcement. Additionally, a conflict of interest must also be identified.”
Last week, Governor Rick Scott called the situation distracting, saying "It seems that everyone in Tallahassee is talking about this and not how to make Florida better." The Senate cancelled two meetings on Monday.
Attorney General Pam Bondi is also weighing in. She said the accuser is "a woman who I've known and respected for years." She added, "My heart breaks for her."
Bondi herself has said she has been the object of unwanted attention.
"I can remember every single incident where I felt like I was inappropriately approached by a man," she said. "None of them were ever supervisors, ever."
Perrin Rogers has also hired a body guard. Neither Perrin Rogers nor the security guard were in her Senate Majority office Monday afternoon.
Senator Latvala held a news conference Monday to defend himself against the accusations.
Latvala said the website Politico, which first reported the harassment claims on November 3, is close to the accuser. He showed photographs of the bureau chief on vacation with the alleged victim. He also said he expects to be exonerated in the coming days.
"To the best of my knowledge, the complaint hasn't come up with one witness or one specific piece of evidence to support her position on any of these issues," Latvala said.
He's also said his budding campaign for Florida governor has been damaged by the accusations, but did not indicate if he would quit the race.
Former State Representative Rich Workman resigned from his position on the Public Service Commission on Monday after the Senate Rules Chairman, Lizbeth Benacquisto, said she had been improperly touched by him.