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Gov. Rick Scott calls Jack Latvala controversy 'disgusting'

Senate budget chairman Senator Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
Senate budget chairman Senator Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 7, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott addressed the Jack Latvala controversy for the first time Monday, telling reporters in Fort Myers that what he has seen in news reports is "disgusting."

In Fort Myers for a tax-cut event, Scott, without prompting from reporters, said: "That's disgusting," but he did not mention Latvala by name.

Referring to his wife Ann and his two daughters, the governor said: "I would be horrified if they were treated (like that). It's disgusting if anybody does that. There's an independent investigation and we need to follow that and find out the real facts of what actually happened."

Scott added: "If anybody has done anything wrong, they need to be out of office. There should be no corruption in politics. We should expect all of our elected officials to be of the highest standards in our society."

Latvala has been accused by six women of groping and making degrading comments about their bodies, Politico reported. The women were not identified by name. Latvala, who is married, denies the charges and says he will fight them.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has called the allegations "atrocious and horrendous."

Negron will be hiring an outside expert to investigate the allegations against Latvala, 66, a senator from Clearwater, Republican candidate for governor and powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee who's in his 16th and final year in Tallahassee.

A reporter asked Scott if sexual harassment of women is part of the culture of Tallahassee. Scott replied: "There better not be. And if it is it has to stop. As we go through this investigation, we're going to find out the facts. We all need to understand the facts, and if anybody's done anything wrong, they're going to be held accountable."

Scott and Latvala were political allies for much of the 2017 legislative session, as the veteran Pinellas legislator defended state-funded tourism and job creation programs from criticism by the House.

The relationship cooled last spring as Scott forged a close alliance with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and the governor vetoed a number of line-item spending projects championed by Latvala and other GOP senators.