Monday, April 23, 2018
Politics

Romano: One more lesson from Latvala on his way out the door

In the end, Jack Latvala had to go.

Even he recognized that.

Unfortunately, he still doesn’t understand why.

That’s clear from his resignation letter, which was long on defiance but short on remorse. He blamed political correctness. He blamed his enemies. He blamed everyone but himself.

And so a career that should have ended with appreciation and applause is instead hustled out the back door one step ahead of pitchforks and prosecutors.

If nothing else is gleaned from this sordid saga, at least let that be a cautionary tale for the colleagues he leaves behind.

Even if Latvala believes his downfall was set in motion by those who despise him, even if he believes in his heart that his actions were merely crude and not criminal, it still does not excuse his lack of awareness.

He had to know he got away with inappropriate behavior because of his position as one of the most powerful men in the state Senate. He had to know that a romantic relationship with a lobbyist was a clear conflict of interest. And he had to know that flirting with young women was inappropriate for a man in his position.

That’s why it’s impossible to feel any sympathy for him today.

Even if you believe, as he insists, that the truth has been twisted, it was Latvala who put himself in the cross hairs. His behavior lent credence, if not absolute confidence, to the allegations made against him.

I’m not saying Latvala was corrupt, although the special master’s investigation suggested that was a strong possibility. I’m saying that Latvala lost his way. That he forgot his position was important but not untouchable.

I’m saying it is a corruptible place, your state Capitol.

People get drunk on perks and power. On money and notoriety. And, yes, on sex.

If recent headlines have taught us anything, it is that legislators believe the rules exist only for others.

This is why House Speaker Richard Corcoran can live the high life funded by corporate donors, while at the same time decrying the nickels and dimes spent by other public servants. This is why legislators can routinely roll over for the big utility companies and still claim to care about the voters back home. This is why current and former legislators have been accused of committing perjury, evading taxes, using racial epithets or sleeping with lobbyists.

And that’s just in the past year. And it doesn’t include Latvala.

All of which suggests two possibilities:

Either we’re doing a lousy job of electing people, or the atmosphere in Tallahassee is ridiculously out of kilter. Or, if the totality of slime has left you in a cynical mood, you could believe both possibilities are true.

In his resignation letter, Latvala makes it sound as if he does not want to be associated with the type of people who could have orchestrated his departure. The problem is that he happily associated with those people for a very long time, so it’s a little late, and very self-serving, to proclaim shock at their behavior.

Maybe it’s just too soon for Latvala to recognize his own culpability, but I do hope others in Tallahassee are paying attention.

This may not be the legacy Latvala once envisioned, but it may still provide a useful service. Because this nonsense has to stop.

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