Latvala cancels parade appearance

Latvala cancels parade appearance
The city of Anna Maria will host its inaugural Veterans Day parade on Friday. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Amidst accusations of sexual harassment, Florida Sen. Jack Latvala has bowed out of the city of Anna Maria’s “Old Soldiers & Sailors” parade and Veterans Day ceremony taking place Friday, Nov. 10.

Jack Latvala
Florida Sen. Jack Latvala is facing anonymous accusations of sexual harassment.

Latvala, a candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial race, was scheduled to serve as parade marshal and as guest speaker at the post-parade veterans ceremonies at City Pier Park.

Latvala contacted Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy Wednesday afternoon.

“He said the day belongs to the veterans, not to him. He does not want to detract from the focus on the veterans on their day and he feels he would be a distraction. He thanked me personally for taking the position that he was innocent until proven guilty. I respect Sen. Latvala’s decision,” Murphy said.

Murphy was contacted earlier in the day by a Bradenton Herald reporter who questioned why the city had not cancelled the senator’s scheduled appearance.

“The last time I checked, you’re innocent until proven guilty, and no charges have been filed. I’m not defending the senator, but I wasn’t going to act on anonymous sources,” Murphy said.

Six women claimed they were sexually harassed by Latvala on an anonymous basis, according to Politico Florida, the news outlet that first reported the accusations late last week.

Latvala has denied the allegations and suggested they were politically motivated, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

On Monday, Senate President Joe Negron suspended Latvala from his duties as Senate Appropriations Committee chairman.

During last year’s Legislative session, Latvala played a key role in the demise of vacation rental legislation that would have impacted Florida cities’ ability to regulate vacation rentals at the local level.

Murphy, a Vietnam veteran, said he would make some remarks at Friday’s ceremony in Latvala’s place.

Friday’s parade will start at city hall at 1 p.m. and travel down Pine Avenue to City Pier Park. The Anna Maria Island Historical Society will host an ice cream social at its museum on Pine Avenue after the Veterans Day ceremonies.