Attorney fears retaliation for woman accusing Sen. Latvala of sexual harassment

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
November 14, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A woman who has filed a sworn complaint against Senator Jack Latvala is continuing to work in the Florida Senate, and her attorney is concerned about retaliation.

Senate committee rooms were empty and locked on Tuesday morning. One senator called it "unusual" with a legislative session starting in seven weeks.

The halt comes as senators grapple with now-formal sexual harassment allegations against Latvala.

"She's going to do her work as long as she can without any retaliation coming to her," said Tiffany Cruz, the complainant's attorney. "She's a strong woman."

Latvala denies the allegations.

The Senate has hired the Tampa law firm Jackson Lewis, which specializes in representing employers. Cruz says an action against the Senate hasn't been ruled out.

"That's certainly a right that she has," Cruz explains. "It's available to her and she enjoys her work and she serves the people of Florida. That's what she likes to do."

The woman who filed the complaint has yet to be interviewed by the Senate's law firm.

Latvala's attorney has asked that the Senate Rules Chairman be disqualified from the investigation. He argues Lizbeth Benacquisto violated Senate rules by verifying that a complaint had been filed.

The Senate President's office says the rules chairman won't have to disqualify herself.

Cruz is worried lawmakers are fast tracking the investigation to get it over with before the session starts in early January. She believes that will keep witnesses and victims from coming forward if they believe Latvala could regain his chairmanship.

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