Monday, December 11, 2017
Opinion

Ruth: Women accusing Latvala of harassment should come forward

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

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17