POLITICO Florida by Matt Dixon and Alexandra Glorioso
December 11, 2017
The Florida Senate is declining to name an attorney who was considered to lead an independent investigation into sexual harassment claims against GOP state Sen. Jack Latvala.
In public records requested by POLITICO, Senate President Joe Negron’s office provided nearly 50 pages of documents relating to the search process for an outside attorney to lead the investigation of Latvala. It included records for several attorneys, but the identity of one was redacte
Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Negron, said a public records exemption for “personal identifying information” is being claimed, but she would not specify which one. There is no requirement that a public entity cite a specific exemption when redacting information from public records.
“We claim the exemptions under [Florida statute] 119 that allow for various redactions, including personal identifying information for certain people who qualify for exemptions,” she said.
The records indicate that the exempt person was recommended by Amy Oppenheimer, a California attorney that the Office of Legislative Services used to seek recommendations on whom to lead the Latvala probe. In October, Oppenheimer’s firm was hired by the California Senate to conduct a sexual harassment investigation.
Oppenheimer recommended Jupiter-based attorney Cathleen Scott and a second attorney whose name is redacted.
“He’s terrific,” Oppenheimer wrote in a Nov. 7 email to Allison Deison, the lead attorney for OLS, which led the hiring process, about the unidentified attorney.
When asked, Oppenheimer repeatedly told POLITICO that she could not remember the name of the unidentified attorney even after being shared the communications exchange in the public records from the Senate office.
There has been little information available about any aspect of the publicly funded investigation, with the Senate often declining to answer basic questions about their rules or any other element of the process. For instance, last week POLITICO reported that a Senate staffer took paid leave on Aug. 16, which was the same day that person attended Latvala’s gubernatorial campaign event in Pensacola, in apparent violation of Senate rules. Betta declined to clarify these rules. [READ MORE]