Latvala Case Returns to Ethics Commission
A case about alleged misconduct by former state Sen. Jack Latvala is headed back to the Florida Commission on Ethics after a lawyer for the commission said she could not proceed at the state Division of Administrative Hearings because two witnesses would not testify.
Latvala, R-Clearwater, resigned from the Senate in 2017 after the release of a special master’s report about allegations he had sexually harassed Rachel Perrin Rogers, a former Senate aide. Latvala denied wrongdoing but admitted he had an extramarital affair with former lobbyist Laura McLeod.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted an investigation, but Latvala was not charged with any crimes. The ethics commission received a complaint in December 2017. The case went to the Division of Administrative Hearings last year after the ethics commission rejected a proposed settlement reached by Latvala and Elizabeth Miller, an attorney who serves as an “advocate” for the commission. Latvala’s lawyer, Ryan Andrews, sought to take the depositions of Perrin Rogers and McLeod. But in a motion filed Friday, Miller indicated that the women did not want to participate. “It has become evident that the two key witnesses (i.e., alleged victims) do not wish to participate in the proceedings, even while under subpoena.
Without the testimony of the two witnesses, the advocate would have to rely exclusively on hearsay evidence and, thus, be unable to prove the allegations by clear and convincing evidence. Accordingly, the advocate cannot proceed without the witnesses’ testimony,” Miller wrote. Latvala took “no position” on Miller’s request to close the file, transfer the case to the ethics commission and cancel a hearing set for December, the motion said.
Administrative Law Judge Hetal Desai on Friday sent the case back to the ethics commission. The proposed settlement that the commission rejected last year would have included Latvala admitting “poor judgment” in having a two-decade consensual sexual relationship with a lobbyist, which “may have constituted a technical violation” of state law. The proposed agreement said there was “no evidence that this affected his official actions in any way” and would have led to dismissal of other allegations. The proposal could have led to public censure and reprimand.
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