Florida state senator resigns amid sexual misconduct claims

Florida state Sen. Jack Latvala resigned Wednesday, one day after an investigation found credible evidence of sexual harassment as well as allegations that he offered to support legislation in exchange for sexual favors.

Latvala, a Republican who is also running for governor, denied wrongdoing even as he submitted his letter of resignation to Florida Senate President Joe Negron.

"I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate," wrote Latvala, whose resignation takes effect Jan. 5.

Retired Judge Ronald Swanson, who carried out the investigation, recommended the Senate sanction Latvala when it began its annual session next month. Swanson added that some of Latvala's actions may have violated public corruption laws and the Florida Senate has referred those allegations to law enforcement.

Top Florida Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, called on Latvala to resign after Swanson's report was made public.

Latvala's letter included parting shots at state GOP leaders.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks during his State of the State speech Tuesday, March 4, 2014 on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Scott touted Florida's improving economy in his speech that drew a contrast between the recession years under former Gov. Charlie Crist and the jobs created during his first three years in office.  (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

Gov. Rick Scott, seen here, had called for Latvala's resignation.  (AP, File)

"I have had enough," he wrote. "If this is the process our Party and Senate leadership desires, than I have no interest in continuing to serve with you."

The investigation into Latvala, 66, began after a complaint filed by Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson. Perrin Rogers accused Latvala of inappropriate touching in a Capitol elevator, at a private club and other occasions.

She said on many occasions, Latvala would comment on her appearance by saying she looked "hot" and would stare at her chest as she tried to talk about legislative issues with him.

Other witnesses said Latvala is known to make grunting or growling sounds aimed at woman, and a lobbyist said she was touched her in an unwelcome manner three or four times.

One former lobbyist said that Latvala would touch her inappropriately, including touching the outside of her bra and panties, every time they were alone in the office. She said he "intimated to her on multiple occasions, that if she engaged in sexual acts or allowed him to touch her body in a sexual manner he would support legislative items for which she was lobbying," Swanson wrote. That included explicit text messages sent to the woman.

The woman said she tolerated the unwanted touching for two years. "I felt it was something he felt entitled to," she said in the report.

A second independent report was released Wednesday detailing similar behavior. A law firm was hired to try to identify and interview six women who made anonymous accusations against Latvala in a Politico Florida article last month. The lawyers investigating the claims reported they didn't talk to the six women, one of whom was Perrin Rogers.

But the investigators said several people among the 54 detailed similar behavior outlined in Swanson's report, ranging from a habit of telling dirty jokes, inappropriate touching and sexual remarks to implications he would trade support for legislation in exchange for sexual favors.

"Senator Latvala made the right decision," Negron said in a statement released by his office. "At all times during this investigation the Senate has afforded all parties the full and fair opportunity to be heard. The Florida Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind against any employee or visitor."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.