As Florida's politically able men abhorrence acceptable targets of animal aggravation allegations, the new-found acquaintance of a male-dominated Legislature has appear with a cost: women are accessory damage.
Female staffers and lobbyists who alternate to the Capitol aftermost anniversary for pre-session meetings, apparent abounding macho legislators will no best accommodated with them privately. Accustomed to Tallahassee's Southern culture, area men and women accidentally and commonly accost anniversary added with hugs, legislators are accomplishing an awkward ball to alter a hug with a handshake. And the abhorrence of backfire — adjoin women who brought advanced allegations or those who may in the approaching — is as raw as the abhorrence that legislators' political enemies could about-face animal aggravation claims into new political weapons.
"I had a agent say, 'I charge my abettor actuality in the allowance because I charge a chaperone,' " said Jennifer Green, a adept lobbyist, afterwards affair with a agent in his Capitol appointment to altercate a client's issue. "I said, 'Senator, why do you charge a chaperone? I don't feel afflictive about you, do you feel afflictive about me? 'Well,' he said, 'anyone can say annihilation with the aperture shut.' "
Now, with allegations adjoin Sen. Jack Latvala actuality advised amidst the civic #MeToo movement, abounding women abhorrence that as added allege out, the backfire adjoin women alive in the Capitol will abound stronger.
"The ability is one that has consistently advantaged men and consistently put women in a abode area the cards were ample adjoin them," said Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat. "I've absolved about the architecture and you can attending in women's eyes and you aloof apperceive they're in pain. They're terrified."
A scattering of able men ascendancy the aldermanic process, fueled by attack contributions from appropriate interests. Macho lobbyists and legislators outnumber women in ability and stature.
When allegations adjoin Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and 16-year Senate veteran, aboriginal emerged, Green, buyer of lobbying abutting Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, predicted that women would be the losers.
"I'm accepting the activity that we're activity ashamed 20 years as changeable professionals," she said. "I absolutely ahead I'm activity to be aggressive with addition abutting that is currently endemic by some male, and the chief agency is activity to be: 'You don't appetite to appoint a changeable lobbying abutting in this environment.' "
Latvala is beneath analysis for allegedly dark a Senate aldermanic aide, Rachel Perrin Rogers, putting his duke bottomward the shirt of a changeable lobbyist, and authoritative inappropriate animal animadversion to Rogers over the advance of four years. Latvala denies it all and believability to his acceptability as a "mentor" to changeable lobbyists, generally requesting that companies appoint changeable lobbyists abutting to him and that colleagues assignment with them.
Book delivered a additional draft to Latvala aftermost anniversary back she filed a complaint adjoin him for actionable Senate rules by allegedly administering a attack to alarm assemblage and accident Rogers' credibility.
The Senate has assassin a retired adjudicator to serve as appropriate adept to apprehend the allegations and actuate if there is apparent account to affirm or adios Rogers' allegations. If proven, they could aftereffect in Latvala's admonishment or banishment from the Senate. The appropriate master's address could appear by the end of this week.
But continued afore Latvala's behavior fabricated him the ambition of the best austere animal aggravation claims adjoin a sitting agent in Florida history, he already had a acceptability as addition who was not alone crass and aloof but, like abounding of his stature, accustomed from reprimand.
In July, he and his wife, Connie Prince, beatific invitations for a weekend of festivities, from "an ancient pig roast" to a lobster banquet at their summer home in Maine.
The break was to account "the Florida Leadership Committee," Latvala's political board which was ramping up his attack and for the Florida Senate's Republican re-election fund. In the army of about 100 guests for the Saturday banquet were the Senate's Republican leaders and dozens of lobbyists.
As Latvala stood afore the accumulation with a microphone in hand, he appear his arresting guests: Senate Admiral Joe Negron, admission Senate admiral Bill Galvano, Sens. Denise Grimsley, Kathleen Passidomo and Rene Garcia.
"And adorable aloof like I'd like her to look, Sen. Debbie Mayfield," Latvala bellowed as the Melbourne Republican entered. Mayfield, 61, is tall, albino and attractive. She was cutting an orange dress and entered "fashionably late" with her bedmate at her side, she recalled aftermost week.
But Latvala's animadversion dead the fizz in the room, say three bodies who were there. For those who apperceive Latvala, a able-bodied political adept who congenital a business on the art of attack mailers and was at the aiguille of his ability as Senate account chairman, a acknowledgment about the actualization of a changeable abettor was not surprising. What abashed them was that he did it on an accessible microphone.
"It was actual awkward," Mayfield recalled aftermost week. "Jack speaks afore he thinks a lot of the time. I don't anticipate he agency annihilation by it."
But, she added: "Everyone in the allowance seemed to notice. I was taken ashamed by the accomplished thing. I acquainted that cipher told Jack that the rules accept changed. You don't do that."
Speaking afterwards this adventure was originally published, Latavala said he didn’t bethink it that way and that he had announced to added senators who were there. “It’s amazing how assertive bodies bethink it and assertive bodies don’t,” he said.
Mayfield said she was affronted her apprentice year as a Abode affiliate back a accumulation of freshmen macho legislators lived calm and ran their busy affair home "like a frat house."
They created a scoring arrangement to rank changeable legislators and lobbyists, she said. One of them was asked what he capital to do in Tallahassee and his acknowledgment was "to beddy-bye with as abounding women as possible," Mayfield recalled. "Who is investigating that?"
She said she believes Latvala's accuser, but Mayfield additionally suggests that Tallahassee's go-along, get-along ability may accept accustomed him to become "desensitized" while those he may accept abashed and affronted did not feel chargeless to complain.
"It's adamantine to brainstorm her [Rogers] advancing advanced in her position if it didn't happen," Mayfield said. "I accept to accept it happened. She would not accept put herself through this if it wasn't true. I admiration if Jack didn't apprehend what he was doing? It's the ability up here. This has not happened brief but over the years has become accepted, about expected."
Former Republican Sen. Mike Fasano, who served 18 years in the Abode and Senate and is now Pasco County tax collector, said he is blessed to see these issues apparent now "because it's article that should accept been dealt with years ago."
"I've apparent contiguous how, abnormally adolescent women, accept been abashed by legislators from both chambers," he said.
He recalled how, as Abode majority baton in 2002, he had to accord with a affiliate "making inappropriate statements to one of our staffers. It was apace brought to my absorption by the speaker's appointment and I had to alarm that affiliate and acquaint him to cut out that garbage. He got the bulletin loud and clear."
Many women legislators and lobbyists say that the aldermanic ability adored an attitude amid women area "don't do that" was not the accepted antiphon from women in the male-dominated world.
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, one of the astral women in the Senate, said she has accomplished a point in her career where, "if there are situations that are ambiguous I feel empowered abundant to say, 'Excuse me, so and so, that's inappropriate.' "
But that is not the case for everyone.
"We charge to actualize an ambiance area a woman feels OK in pointing out bad behavior and afresh that bad behavior ceases," she said. "Because some of the things I've apparent from changeable colleagues and others is that back a woman doesn't alarm the guy out, the guy says, 'I'm activity to do it again.' "Book, who has become an apostle for accouchement afterwards actuality sexually abused for six years by a nanny, sees a ability in Tallahassee that fosters bloodthirsty behavior.
"When you accept beyond the band so abounding times, you don't apperceive what's appropriate and what's amiss anymore," she said.
Mayfield agreed. "The ability is difficult to change, because it's consistently been this way," she said.
The legislature's leaders say that change in Tallahassee is inevitable.
Under the accepted system, there is no action absolute from the Legislature that allows agents and lobbyists to appear advanced with allegations adjoin assembly afterwards abhorrence of retaliation. There is no accepted for barring conflicts of absorption back legislators advance affectionate relationships with lobbyists or added lawmakers.
"We charge to abide to check the processes and procedures in cases that are actual specific — from a animal aggravation standpoint — to accomplish abiding there are no obstacles," said Sen. Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is appointed to become Senate admiral in November 2018. "Going into my presidency, as we revisit all of the rules, this will be a affair we revisit as well."
Mayfield, a above cyberbanking executive, wants binding animal aggravation training for senators and abstracted sessions for their staff. The additional footfall is to authorize an "independent" abode for women — and men — to to accomplish complaints anonymously. Those complaints should be advised and presented to the able authorities "without names attached," as they do in the business world, she said.
Green agreed that the ability has to change in adjustment for women to be advised equally.
"If you appetite to fix all this, ban legislators from adopting money from lobbyists," she said. "Some women feel if they're not adopting a agglomeration of money, they should be flirty. It's about the environment. Accomplish an ambiance that does not acquiesce bubbler in the Capitol, don't accept committees accommodated afterwards a assertive time, and don't acquiesce fundraising in Tallahassee."
`But while there are belief of legislators who accept preyed on changeable aides and lobbyists, Green believes "it's not as common as everybody is led to believe" and it is a aberration to agglomeration calm consensual animal relationships with animal harassment.
"Guys that are absolute creepers saying, 'Have sex with me or I'm not activity to apprehend your bill,' are few and far between," she said. "If bodies bluff on their spouses, they accept to alive with the consequences, but to allocate aggregate that's activity on as a animal aggravation aspersion is balderdash …"
Book warns, however, that consensual sex amid a administrator and a subordinate, such as a aldermanic aide, and lobbyist, whose alimentation depends on the Legislature, can activate because of "predatory behavior" by the administrator base the situation.
"It's an alterity of power," she said. "The ability activating is what bodies don't understand."
Green said she additionally fears that if the new accustomed is to inaccurately amplify the prevalence of animal harassment, it will not alone unfairly abuse all women, it will actualize a new political weapon — with women as the accessory damage.
"I could see a book area addition gets mad about audition a bill and aback you'll apprehend some new allegation pop up," she said. "It's activity to be a tactic to added someone's agenda."