One of Florida state senator Jack Latvala’s accusers has made her identity known. She is Rachel Perrin Rogers, the staff director of the senate majority office for Wilton Simpson. Simpson is a future senate president.
As the story unfolds, Ms. Perrin Rogers claims senator Latvala sexually harassed her over a period of four years. She says he groped her in a senate building elevator and engaged in rubbing her leg in the Governor’s Club, a private watering hole for Florida’s political elitists. Latvala denies this. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. The investigation chips need to fall honestly where they may.
What is also clear is Ms. Perrin Rogers is not baggage free in her own right. This past June she sought help for her surgeon step father from Latvala to get him out of jury duty. Her texted request was that Latvala use his influence with the Pinellas County Clerk to arrange this. Latvala is said to have texted her to tell her stepdad to simply not show up and it would be handled after the fact. She thanked him via text the next day.
If you have been called for jury duty, you know how inconvenient it can be. But you must go; unlike Florida’s political elitists and their friends and family who travel in the circles of Tallahassee royalty like senator Latvala and Ms. Perrin Rogers.
Stories regarding this brewing scandal in today’s Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald also reveal text messages in which Ms. Perrin Rogers refers to current senate president Joe Negron as a “douche bag,” and senator Anitere Flores as “Flwhores.”
Of course, none of this grants a license to be groped by anyone, senator or otherwise. It does call into question the level of dysfunctionality going on in at least one of our legislative chambers in Tallahassee.
As a constituent of Senator Simpson, I wonder where he stands on such terms being used by his staff director to describe his colleagues. Is he on board with the level of disrespect being directed at his colleagues? Does he also grant favors like getting friends and family out of jury duty or other accommodations? Is he part of a plan to drive Latvala out of the senate and the governor’s race? Who knows?
He is smartly silent on the issue for now but it’s time to stand and be counted senator.
Call out the disrespectful language used by your chief staffer. Issue a policy that such a lack of professionalism will no longer be tolerated by the majority office. If you can’t do this now, what are we to think of your standards when you are senate president?
As this embarrassment centered around senator Latvala grows, coming on the heels of former senator Frank Artiles’ resignation last year, and former senator Jeff Clemens’ resignation just weeks ago, one thing is clear. Despite their posturing, the Florida senate is no less a swamp than Washington, D.C. Indeed, it’s the farm club where players often go to make the big leagues and pick the harvest in the D.C. money tree orchard. The people know this. We know we are governed by some, perhaps many, who are weak narcissists and psychopaths; craving power, sex and money- and not necessarily in that order. Our own failure is we don’t mind as long as the offenders match our preferred red or blue jerseys.
It’s time for the real leaders in the state legislature, whether they have formal positions of leadership or not, to take a stand; to demand a higher level of professionalism and a higher standard of conduct. Providing anonymous observations and falling back on the platitudes of official policy statements isn’t affecting behavior and it isn’t showing leadership. A future senate president would be an ideal person with whom to begin.