Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senators slow Gov. Rick Scott's attack on notaries

In a decades-long career in politics, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, thought he had seen just about everything, until Monday.

"We're in uncharted territory," he said as he gaveled to order a meeting of the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee.

On the agenda was a request by Gov. Rick Scott that the Senate, in its advise-and-consent role, remove from office dozens of notaries public appointed by Scott but who had felony convictions or failed to follow state law in the performance of their duties.

Scott's assistant general counsel, Thomas "Bo" Winokur, told senators that the governor's office has a "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to violations by notaries, who must certify the legitimacy of legal documents such as mortgages and leases and the signatures on them.

Until Monday, senators didn't realize they have the duty to reinstate or remove a notary suspended by the governor, and that's where things really got interesting.

William Gladden Jr., a notary in Apopka with 23 years' experience, had his license suspended by Scott's office in October for notarizing a signature not in his presence and omitting a notary's certificate. Accused of lying by the governor's office, Gladden denied the charge and asked for a hearing before the Senate, as the law allows.

"I did not notarize that lease. I'll stand on my last breath that I did not notarize that paper," Gladden said.

Testifying by telephone because he can't drive and uses a wheelchair, Gladden said someone else must have gotten access to his instrument to forge his name and stamp on a lease that made it appear a squatter was living in the house legally.

Senators soon learned that Gladden is 82, a Navy veteran and African-American, describing himself under oath as an "American Negro" and the only notary "on this side of the railroad track" in Orange County. Not only does Gladden live in an area served by few notaries, but Apopka police investigated the suspect lease and closed the case without filing charges.

Latvala sought direction from the lawyers on the panel, one of whom, Miami Republican Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, moved to reinstate Gladden's notary commission, saying he has suffered enough and has learned the basic lesson of the case: to keep his notary stamp in a locked file cabinet.

The case underscores some enduring truths.

• The power of Senate traditions. The Senate is a deliberative body whose members are the Capitol's most experienced and who know that a rush to judgment is often fraught with danger. They sought a consensus: They didn't want to ruin Gladden's livelihood nor did they want to make it appear as if Scott's office was wrong to pursue the case.

• Compromise whenever possible. Rather than reinstate Gladden or end his notary career, senators found a middle ground. They directed Scott's legal team to negotiate what they called a "remedial action plan" over the next two weeks that they can approve at an April 21 meeting, their final one of the session.

"We're trying to be fair and empathetic," Latvala said.

Lest there be any lingering confusion over what senators wanted, Latvala peered at Scott's lawyer, Winokur.

"You get this, right?" Latvala said.

"Yes sir," the lawyer said.

Contact Steve Bousquet at

Senators slow Gov. Rick Scott's attack on notaries 04/07/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2014 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. What do kids need to stay away from deadly auto theft epidemic?

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — More than a dozen black teenagers told U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist on Wednesday that children need stronger mentors and youth programs to steer clear of the auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.

    Congressman Charlie Crist (center) listens as Shenyah Ruth (right), a junior at Northeast High School, talks during Wednesday's youth roundtable meeting with community leaders and kids. They met to discuss the ongoing car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth and how law enforcement, elected officials, and community organizations can work together to put an end to this dangerous trend. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  3. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  4. Bucs talk social issues, protests at team meeting


    TAMPA — Each time Dirk Koetter walks through the door of his office at One Buc Place, he passes by the only jersey framed on his wall.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) wears custom cleats to represent Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) as part of the NFL???‚??„?s "My Cause, My Cleats Campaign" before the start of a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.
  5. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]