Florida Senate agrees to pay aide $900K in sex scandal

Posted at 6:34 AM, Jan 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-04 11:28:46-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's Republican-controlled state Senate agreed to pay $900,000 to settle a complaint filed by a high-ranking legislative aide who accused a former GOP state senator of sexual misconduct.

The settlement between Rachel Perrin Rogers and the Senate was reached last month, but the details were not disclosed publicly until Thursday. Under the settlement terms, Rogers agreed to resign on Jan. 4. She was a top aide to Sen. Wilton Simpson, who had been the Senate majority leader when Rogers first complained about the behavior of then-state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Bill Galvano, said the Bradenton Republican "believed the matter would continue to negatively impact the parties and distract from the important work of the Senate, while legal fees mounted for all involved."

Betta said "the settlement brings this matter to a conclusion that allows both parties to move forward."

In 2017, Rogers accused Latvala of inappropriate touching in a Capitol elevator, at a private club and on 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.

Latvala denied any wrongdoing but abruptly resigned in December 2017 after a Senate investigation concluded that he likely inappropriately touched Rogers and that he may have broken the law by supporting legislation in exchange for sex acts. A state prosecutor last July said there was insufficient evidence to prove that Latvala, who had been budget chairman before the scandal broke open, traded sexual favors with a former lobbyist.

Rogers filed a federal discrimination complaint that alleged gender discrimination and that the Senate retaliated against her due to her initial complaint against Latvala.

Rogers on Thursday declined to comment on the settlement, which also states that she cannot reapply for a job with the Florida Senate.

But in her resignation letter to Simpson, she wrote, "I feel an immense sadness that at this time I am no longer able to do this work for you in the Senate. Thank you for your unwavering support."

The settlement terms show that the $900,000 is being placed in a trust account managed by the attorneys who represented Rogers in the case. It says that all attorney fees owed by Rogers must be paid out of the total.

Florida's Capitol was thrown into turmoil in late 2017 due to ongoing sexual-misconduct scandals.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned after Politico Florida reported that he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. Gov. Rick Scott had appointed former state Rep. Rich Workman to a position with the commission that oversees the state's utilities. But Workman resigned after state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said he inappropriately touched her and made vulgar comments at a Republican fundraiser.

Despite the scandals, legislators failed to reach an agreement during the 2018 session on changing state law to prevent and punish sexual harassment.