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State Senator Defends Staffer Who Claims Latvala Assaulted Her

Lauren Book

A state lawmaker is defending one of her staffers, who is accusing former Senator Jack Latvala of sexual harassment, sexual assault and coercion. Florida Senate employee Laura McLeod is the second woman to come forward publicly with allegations against Latvala.

Laura McLeod, a former lobbyist and now a legislative aide to Senate Democrat Lauren Book, told her account to the Miami Herald. She details a complicated, and at times consensual, relationship with ousted Senator Jack Latvala. She says the powerful former budget chief repeatedly groped her in his office, and pushed her into a sexual relationship in exchange for supporting her bills.

Senator Book is standing by McLeod's statements. 

“Since Laura told me about some of the things, we’ve had countless conversations about how we work on this culture," Book said. "And I have no doubt that there are Senators and House members and leadership that will not rest until we address that culture.”

And Book is sponsoring a bill that would crack down on what she sees as a culture of harassment in the Legislature.                    

“We’re actively working on ways that we can ensure that things that happened, that have happened, don’t happen again," Book said. "I’m immensely proud of Laura. I think she is one of the toughest and strongest women that I’ve ever had the honor and pleasure to work with.”

Latvala, who is still registered as an active candidate for the 2018 Governor's race, resigned in December, after media reports spurred a Senate investigation. McLeod’s testimony in the probe prompted law enforcement to open a criminal inquiry.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.