Saturday, July 21, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Latvala’s departure a lesson for other legislators

We’ll get to the all the sleazy, tawdry, boorish sexual stuff in just a moment. But first let us ponder the doughnut episode.

Had soon-to-be-former Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Krispy Kreme, realized his improbable dream of getting elected governor, some guy on Florida’s death row might have had his execution warrant signed because the chief executive of the state was having a fit over not getting his daily doughnut fix that morning.

The accusations are hot and heavy over what Latvala has been up to during his years of legislative bacchanalia in Tallahassee. And facing expulsion from the Senate and a criminal investigation, he opted to resign. Good riddance.

Latvala’s bid to become governor had already flat-lined, and the former Senate appropriations chairman had become a pariah after the accusations. If he had stayed on and fought, he couldn’t have gotten a bill passed honoring motherhood.

The Clearwater Republican has been accused of inappropriate touching of women including as Rachel Rogers, a Senate legislative aide, who detailed an icky list of alleged violations. But the accusations took on a darker tone when an unnamed victim who once worked as a lobbyist accused Latvala of offering to help her with legislative issues in return for sex. That sounds like a quid pro quo and worth a criminal investigation. Resignation or not, that issue is still in play.

The investigation by the Senate’s special master recounts a pattern of bad behavior, including accounts of Latvala throwing hissy fits if his lust for doughnuts was not satisfied. Rogers recounted having to calm him down when the office doughnuts were not available. Think of this as a sort of Tallahassee "Moe! Larry! Cheese!" moment.

And this guy wanted to be governor? It might be argued the last thing the Falstaffian Latvala needed were more doughnuts.

For his part, Latvala expressed astonishment over his prurient predicament, arguing that he thought the woman who has said he coerced her into a sexual relationship in return for his votes was an old, dear friend.

"I just did not see this coming," the myopic senator told the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau. "It’s somebody I thought was a close friend of mine.’’

You never see the bullet that kills you. And what kind of "friend" uses his political influence to compel someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity in order to protect her job? What kind of so-called "public servant" uses his perch of power to denigrate underlings? What kind of politician would confuse the Florida Senate with Hedonism II?

Not that it matters much now, but Rogers also described the senator in the office sounding a wee bit pickled from imbibing Grey Goose vodka.

It’s no shock that while the Florida Legislature is certainly populated with some good, hard-working, diligent lawmakers, there are a fair number who regard their offices as a license to swill and thrill.

Latvala still deluded himself into thinking he was gubernatorial timber, never suspecting that accusations of impropriety would come up. Stupidity should be a disqualifying factor for the governorship.

There’s a lesson here for other members of the Florida Legislature who may have engaged in similar conduct. You may be able to treat staffers and lobbyists as mere widgets who serve at your whim.

But eventually there is a price to pay for all that arrogance and cruelty.

In Latvala’s case, it is the ruination of a political career and reputation. His hard fall is much more than one senator’s public disgrace. It is a cautionary tale about Tallahassee’s historically corrupting culture of entitlement — if anybody in the Florida Legislature is paying attention.

Comments

Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Updated: 9 hours ago

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18