Florida Democratic Party boss resigns amid complaints of conduct toward women

Stephen Bittel, center, chats with voters as members of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party Executive Committee met in Wynwood, Fla., on Dec. 20, 2016, to elect a new state committeeman. Bittel has resigned. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, center, resigned November 17, 2017, after women accused him of inappropriate behavior.  (2017 MCT)

The chairman of the Florida Democratic Party resigned Friday after staffers accused the official of inappropriate behavior toward women.

Chairman Stephen Bittel left his post as six former Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants told Politico he had allegedly created an unprofessional work environment for women. All four Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates also had called for Bittel's resignation. 

“When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside,” Bittel said. “I am proud of what we have built as a Party and the wins we have had for Florida families, but I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure at the Democratic Party.”

Bittel added that he was working with leadership to set a date to elect his successor.

The women told Politico that while Bittel never inappropriately touched or threatened them, his body language and suggestive comments made them uncomfortable.

Sources told Politico that Bittel had a “breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball” he kept on his desk.

“There was a lot of boob stuff in his office,” a woman told Politico. “I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned.”

A spokesman for Bittel confirmed the squeeze ball, telling Politico it was a gift “from a former female general counsel of his company years ago as a joke for his birthday.”

Bittel also allegedly made references to women cooking dinner and showing their breasts -- as well as comments on whether they wanted to ride on his plane or if they thought he was good-looking.

In a statement to Politico, Bittel apologized.  

“Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry,” Bittel said. “I have much to learn, but my goal is and has always been to make sure every member of our party has a safe environment in which to succeed. It seems I’ve not been successful in that goal, and I will do better."