Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Opinion

Ruth: Women accusing Latvala of harassment should come forward

RECOMMENDED READING


Itís been a rough few days for Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who is also (for the moment, at least) a candidate for governor.

A week or so ago, Latvala was a gruff-talking curmudgeon of the Florida Legislature, attempting to parlay his "tell it like it is" persona into the Governorís Mansion.

And then it all came crashing down around his Falstaffian shoulders, beginning with the release of a photograph of the senator kissing a lobbyist in the parking lot of an Italian restaurant. Latvala attempted to dismiss the photo by arguing the lobbyist was a dear old platonic friend, as if it is quite normal for a married man to plant a buss on another woman. Perhaps it is an old Clearwater custom.

Itís entirely possible Latvalaís parking lot indiscretion might have been dismissed as merely the chianti talking. And that would have been that. Alas, the senatorís woes were only just beginning.

Within days of the photoís release, Latvala had to contend with allegations by six unidentified women to Politico that the senator had sexually harassed them with unwanted advances involving inappropriate touching or making demeaning remarks about their bodies. It would seem at this point Latvala would have a hard time getting elected governor of the planet Zircon 7, much less advancing up the political food chain of Tallahassee.

Florida Senate President Joe Negron has appointed a third-party investigator to look into the allegations against Latvala. And the senator has been removed as chairman of the Appropriations Committee from whence his considerable political power once flowed. Now heís just another guy in the back of the Florida Legislatureís bus.

Latvala has done himself no favors since the controversy erupted.

Days ago, the senator defiantly noted he had signed a sworn affidavit denying the charges against him and passed a polygraph exam with flying colors, exonerating him of any hint he had engaged in boorish behavior.

Well! That certainly clears everything up, donít you think?

Really now, did Latvala actually expect anyone to believe a lie detector test (which is inadmissible in court) arranged by his own legal counsel would put to rest the allegations against him?

Latvala has argued plots (!), conspiracies (!) and duplicity most foul (!) are afoot in Tallahassee to besmirch the integrity of the Senate in general and his electoral fortunes in particular. Now thereís some keen political analysis for you.

Still, it would be fair to argue that while Latvala may be less than a gentleman in the hallways of government, he is still the victim of a smear campaign.

In recent weeks, all manner of men have been accused of pretty awful behavior toward men and women ó producer Harvey Weinstein, Republican Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, Bill OíReilly and entertainers like Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Richard Dreyfuss and others.

But in each of those cases, the victims making the allegations have been willing to go public by name.

Not so with Latvala. So far, none of the women who accused him have had the courage to attach their names to the allegations. And thatís not fair. Latvala has a right to know, and so does the public.

If you are going to destroy a candidateís gubernatorial ambitions and a longtime elected officialís reputation, perhaps even deservedly so, you also have an obligation to step forward publicly with your charges.

Whatever sins Latvala may have committed, he still has a right to confront his accusers. Maybe thereís an explanation for everything. You never know. Itís the parallel universe of Tallahassee, after all, where reality goes to die.

Latvala can sign all the affidavits he wants. He can have polygraph exams administered by Pope Francis. And yet the dark cloud of suspicion will hang over him as long as his detractors decide to remain in the shadows.

Thatís life in Tallahassee. Why bother with transparency when a knife in the back works just as well?

Comments

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise ó for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system ó one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Krisemanís own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17