Sign here, ma'am Here's $900,000 of state tax money, but you'll never work in Tallahassee again!
That's how incoming Florida State Senate President William Saint "Bill" Galvano (R-Pinellas)(left) just settled a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case alleging sexual battery by former State Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jack Latvala (R-Pasco/Pinellas).
Senator Latvala's alleged, public sexual misconduct was exposed in 2017 by Politico, which reported rude, crude, demeaning, degrading public grab-ass behavior directed at six women. A former legislator, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL1), described Latvala as "an absolute hound."
- Offered women lobbyists legislation in exchange for sex,
- Touched and made public comments on women's body parts, and did so in the Capitol complex and in Tallahassee's secretive private clubs, including at least one whose rules ban reporters.
Senate Appropriations Chair Latvala resigned in 2017, did not run for Governor and escaped criminal prosecution in 2018. Now one Latvala victim, Rachel Perrin Rogers, is getting $900,000 of your tax money, but she is legally forbidden to apply for any job with the Florida State, by settlement that effectively ends her Tallahassee political career.
Saying he desires to "move forward," Florida Senate President Galvano approved the $900,000 settlement, avoiding a jury trial and open public court testimony by Tallahassee politicos about louche, loutish, libidinous Latvala's routine habit and practice toward women staffers and lobbyists.
"Moving forward?" Exactly where, Senator? Waiting to interview him.
In October, emitting a half-baked "state's rights" argument, Florida Senate sued the United States of America EEOC in a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), asserting Eleventh Amendment "sovereign immunity" from the 1991 Government Employee Rights Act. The Florida Senate vowed to go the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals when Judge Hinkle said he thought he lacked jurisdiction. Florida Senate paid law firms Sidley & Austin and Holland & Knight to litigate before an EEOC Administrative Law Judge and federal courts. The Florida Senate's SLAPP case was dismissed as moot last month after the $900,000 settlement, now final.
- Our Florida State Senate must act to:
- Force Latvala to pay for the $900,000 settlement. (His net worth is reportedly $7.4 million)
- Reject the settlement clause barring Ms. Rogers from ever applying for a job with the Florida State Senate again.
- Hold public hearings.
- Apologize to Ms. Rogers and other victims.
Otherwise, there's no remedy for Tallahasee's toxic, hostile work environment.
Why this matters:
- It's our money.
- It's our government.
- Extirpating discrimination and ending hostile working environments is a fundamental human right.
Yale Law Professor Owen M. Fiss wrote a 1984 article, "Against Settlement," arguing that some cases are so important that they require trials, not settlements. (What if Brown v. Board of Education were settled on the quietus, without no legally binding precedent?).
Federal courts exist to remedy dysfunctional lawbreaking organizations -- like lawbreaking police departments, workplaces, schools and prisons. That's what happened in the 1990s in NOW Legal Defense Fund's landmark Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards case, in which United States District Judge Howell Webster Melton, a St. Augustine resident, empowered women workers and transformed another grab-ass workplace with intense remedial scrutiny.
In contrast, the $900,000 "cash-and-go" Rogers settlement leaves Florida's State Senate unreformed and leaves Latvala and other tortfeasors "unwhipped of justice."
Discrimination victims have a right to remain in their job, in a non-hostile working environment.
But when the employer and employee agree in settlement that there is a toxic, hostile working environment, wise employment lawyers counsel their clients not to go back to work in a radioactive snake pit.
At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1994, a clerical employee working with decades-old environmental paperwork was retaliated against for asking questions. Some 125 clerical employees were working in inappropriate office space, on top of the radioactive, toxic remains of ORNL's Molten Salt Reactor Experiment -- never decontaminated or decommissioned, causing radioactive criticality and fluorine release risks to employees. The victim agreed to a cash settlement and never to reapply for a.job with Lockheed Martin ever again, appending a list of some 150+ subsidiaries worldwide. Why? Reinstatement to a radioactive snake pit would not work.
Despite Politico's reporting and the #Me Too movement, will our Florida State Senate remain a toxic, hostile, radioactive working environment, a snake pit for ethical employees?
Would you want your sister to work there?
A Senate committee hearing is required to determine who authorized the Senate lawyers' demand that Ms. Rogers never apply, and never work, for the Florida State Senate again.
Rather than thank, praise and promote the whistleblower -- and remedy the toxic hostile working environment -- the Senate's cynical settlement treats Ms. Rogers like a leper, shaming the victim and providing a "lettuce poultice."
The Rogers v. Florida settlement was negotiated by Florida State Senate General Counsel Jeremiah Hawkes, 41, a failed county court judge candidate whom the Florida Bar website currently predicts will be President of the Florida Police Lawyers Association until "2030." Jeremiah Hawkes worked for Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and was Florida House General Counsel under then-Speaker Marco Antonio Rubio, now U.S. Senator. His brother Joshua is a member of the Florida Ethics Commission and Foley and Lardner law firm associate.
Rogers settlement signer Jeremiah Hawkes is the son of lobbyist Paul M. Hawkes, former Chief Judge of the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, against whom ethics charges were dismissed as "moot" after he resigned over a $49 million "Taj Mahal" courthouse. (Florida's Supreme Court's opinion reserved continuing jurisdiction if Paul Hawkes ever became a judge again). Paul Hawkes was a prosecutor, a Republican legislator from Citrus County, a top staffer to Gov. Jeb Bush and two (2) Republican House speakers (Daniel Webster and Thomas Feeney), and a friend of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, former House Speaker. Paul Hawkes' lobbying clients include Big Sugar, utility monopolies, Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers Association, the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges, the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Public Defender Association, Florida State University Foundation, Shands Hospital, insurance companies, cities, school boards, and the greyhound racing industry.
In Tallahassee, who will speak for Florida State Legislature employees?
How about you?