ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Sen. Jack Latvala (R - Clearwater) is under investigation by the Florida Senate for allegations of sexual harassment.
The investigation follows a report in Politico where six women who work at the Capitol accuse Latvala, the Senate's budget chair who is also running for governor, of inappropriately touching them without their consent or uttering demeaning remarks about their bodies.
State Senate President Joe Negron described the allegations as "atrocious and horrendous" and encouraged anyone with information regarding the alleged harassment to contact either the offices of the Senate general council, Senate president or legislative services.
"The Senate has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or misconduct of any kind and takes this issue with the utmost seriousness," he said in a statement to our news partners at the Tampa Bay Times.
The women, who include Senate staff and lobbyists from both major parties, claim the harassment happened over several years in places ranging from Latvala's office to the Capitol rotunda, the Politico article said.
Latvala, in a statement released Friday evening, described Politico as a "fake news entity" and their article as a "smear campaign."
"I unequivocally deny the allegations that have been made against me," he said. "And I find it interesting that these anonymous complaints have only come forward after I began my campaign for governor."
Latvala welcomed the Senate investigation, adding that "if my political opponents want a fight, then it's a fight they will get."
Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D - Coral Springs) has already requested Latvala's removal from Senate leadership.
"I call on President Joe Negron to immediately remove Senator Latvala from his role as Appropriations Chair," he said in a statement. "Additionally, I call on Speaker Richard Corcoran to tell the Senate that the House will refuse to go into budget conference with Senator Latvala in that position.”