Less than a week after Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned after reports of his affair with a lobbyist emerged, Florida Senate President Joe Negron defended his chamber's policy for reporting harassment.
Negron, R-Stuart, said the Senate has a "pro-reporting" policy that encourages people to lodge complaints.
“The process works when people come forward and there will be an investigation and when the complaint is founded there will be consquences,” Negron told reporters and editors during Thursday’s AP Day.
But it's not clear why Negron knows how that process works in the Senate because there have been so few complaints filed. In fact, Senate spokesperson Katie Betta said she was aware of only one complaint of sexual harassment and that was by a former legislative aide to then-Sen. Maria Sachs.
Matthew Damsky accused Sachs, a Delray Beach Democrat, of sexually harassing him by dressing in front of him in the office in 2016. She counter-sued, alleging he fraudulently racked up an estimated $100,000 on her and her family’s credit cards without her knowledge. He dropped the suit.
Negron said that lack of formal complaints should not be interpreted as a lack of reporting of harassment, but when later asked by reporters what type of reporting has occurred, he didn’t elaborate.
“We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” Negron said.
Conduct unbecoming to the Senate, Negron said, isn’t tolerated. He said if such conduct is revealed, the consequences are severe.
But again, it’s unclear what, if any, process exists.
Former Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, resigned only after media reports emerged that his political campaign hired a former Hooters’ calendar girl and Playboy model as “consultants.” Fellow senators did filed a complaint against Artiles for his using of racist language, but that’s unrelated to sexual harassment.
Negron did say the process that he revised on Friday still includes human resources as staff that will field complaints.