Tampa Bay Times by Lawrence Mower
July 16, 2019
TALLAHASSEE — State police are reviewing whether Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis broke state law and released a woman’s sexual harassment complaint for political purposes.
A top official in Patronis’ office told the woman’s attorney Tuesday that he was referring the allegations to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“Our office has made no findings on the matter,” Mike Shoaf, who serves as Patronis’ inspector general, wrote in a letter to Tallahassee attorney Tiffany Cruz. “To ensure your client’s complaint receives an independent and fair review, our office has forwarded the issues and concerns to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.”
The referral escalates an internal employee dispute into a criminal matter, indicating that state officials are taking seriously the allegation that Patronis — or someone on his staff — broke state law when a complaint against the state’s top banking regulator, Ronald Rubin, was published online two months ago.
That could mean first-degree misdemeanor charges against Patronis, one of the top four elected politicians in state government, or a member of his staff. It’s punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
It’s the second time in the last year that Patronis’ office publicized a sexual harassment case without the consent of the female complainant to pressure the state’s banking regulators to resign. Cruz has represented both complainants.
“It sounds like a similar story, right?” Cruz said Tuesday. “Patronis’ office is using this complaint to force an employment decision.”