By Jim Bleyer
Accused by several women of sexual harassment and under pressure to resign, State Sen. Jack Latvala’s abusive behavior has been occurring for at least forty years.
Latvala hit on subordinates and coworkers while working for the Republican Party of Florida in the mid to late seventies, unimpeachable sources have told Tampa Bay Beat.
The unwanted advances were so blatant that it is difficult to believe party officials were unaware of Latvala’s misbehavior, one source said. If true, nothing has changed in the GOP over the decades as far as failing to police its operatives and officeholders.
Tampa Beat has reported on Tallahassee’s sex-charged culture in the seventies and Latvala’s participation in it.
But, now, with high-profile Republicans like House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, and Gov. Rick Scott aspiring to important elective positions in 2018, Latvala is nearly alone on the Titanic.
Never known for being anything but being a bully and a misogynist, Latvala’s only unpaid (we think) defenders unrelated to him are State Rep. Kathleen Peters and the Poynter Institute/Tampa Bay Times. Poynter/Times has always ignored the ugly behavior of the large proportioned legislator who has been the newspaper’s lapdog.
Latvala would have been its favored gubernatorial candidate on the Republican side. The Times will support Gwen Graham in the Democratic primary; Bob Graham sits on the Poynter board. Peters and Latvala have always been ultra chummy.
The Times is willing to go down with the ship. They’re accustomed to that drill this year.
One of its columnists ran a “let the process play out before condemning him” screed, a concession they wouldn’t offer Kevin King, chief of staff for St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, for far less serious misconduct.
Poynter/Times have serious problems of their own: waning readership, a troubling financial situation, blowback from soliciting and accepting millions from right wingers to stay afloat, and an incredible knack for endorsing losing candidates.
But the coup de grace could be a complaint filed against Poynter to the Internal Revenue Service questioning its non-profit status. That process takes six months or so to play out and, in keeping with policy, the IRS will not comment on the status of the complaint.