The Florida National Organization for Women is calling for an ethics investigation into Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for releasing two women’s sexual harassment complaints, one in possible violation of state law.
“Patronis’ use of women as political pawns is reprehensible and inflicts further damage on the women,” Florida NOW President Kim Porteous said in a statement Monday. “How many times must a victim be harmed by sexual harassment?”
A complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics was filed against Patronis last month by the founder of Women’s March Florida, but the status of the case is unclear.
Patronis has come under fire for two instances in which he released women’s sexual harassment complaints without the women’s knowledge or consent — or without reporters requesting them as part of a public records request.
In one instance last year, Patronis said the state’s former top banking regulator mishandled a complaint involving two employees. In the case this year, a woman filed a complaint against the new bank regulator — whom Patronis had picked for the job.
Both of the banking regulators say the complaints were released to the media because they didn’t do Patronis’ bidding.
A lawyer representing both women believes Patronis did it for political purposes. In both instances, Patronis was trying to pressure the state’s banking regulators to resign.
“She made her complaint and thought it would stay confidential, which it’s supposed to,” Tallahassee attorney Tiffany Cruz told the Times last month. “And it did, until it was politically convenient for a politician to release it.”
Patronis has defended his decision to release the second woman’s sexual harassment complaint, citing a letter from his lawyer saying it was legal.
The complaint was labeled “confidential and exempt” under state law, and state police are reviewing whether releasing it broke the law.
On Tuesday, he blasted one of the banking commissioners, Ronald Rubin, who was fired by the Cabinet last month. Patronis said he “heard reports” that people working for Rubin released one victim’s cell phone number and media accounts.
He said in a statement that his staff was researching changes to Florida law “to go even further and protect anyone from having to ever experience this kind of retaliation again.”
Porteous said Monday that Patronis’ actions creates a chilling effect for women who want to report abuse.
“Patronis is directly supporting the silencing of victims, primarily women, in keeping them from reporting sexual harassment allegations,” Porteous said in a statement. “His is exactly the type of action that creates an unsafe environment for women to come forward.”