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Sexual harassment allegations strike a blow against a Scientology political ally in Florida

Rod Keller has a fascinating piece for us today about a Florida political mini-dynasty.

The current climate of victims coming forward with long-suppressed accusations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct has not only snared many Hollywood figures but also a politician whose family has long been friendly to the Church of Scientology.

On November 3, Politico reported that six women have come forward with allegations that Florida State Senator Jack Latvala groped and sexually harassed them. The allegations come on the heels of hidden camera photos of the Republican state senator kissing a female lobbyist on the lips. Latvala denies the allegations and no charges have been filed against him, but as the Tampa Bay Times reported, most observers find the accusations credible and expect this to end Latvala’s career in politics. If so, it marks an end to the influence of one of Scientology’s most powerful allies in Florida.

Just this week, in fact, Scientologists in Clearwater received an appeal to contact Latvala in favor of Senate Bill 270, which would modestly adjust the Baker Act. The Act allows officials to bring a person who may be a danger to themselves or others to a mental health facility for evaluation against their will. Scientology is against every part of the Act. The new bill would give parents the right to transport their child instead of police officers, and require children to begin evaluation within eight hours of their arrival.


Live in Clearwater or vicinity?
Baker Act Legislation: Please call your Senator: (Jack Latvala is your senator if you live in Clearwater)

Info: This bill Senate Bill 270 titled “Involuntary Examination and Involuntary Admission of Minors” will help restore parental rights in Florida and protect children from the trauma of unjust involuntary examinations. (For example, parents will be able to drive their kids if they get Baker-acted, if they want – as well as be able to get them out quickly if they are incorrectly Baker-acted).

Action step: Please contact your Florida State Senator and tell him you support Senate Bill 270 and want to make sure it gets voted on (Jack can make sure it gets voted on in the committees it’s in and then pushed to a vote by all of the Senate). Tell person who answers phone in your own words that you feel this is very very important for our children and our future etc. – whatever you want to say about why it’s important and that you want your message passed on to Senator Latvala.

Call: Senator Jack Latvala 727-793-2797
Note: Jack is running for governor
– Jack is one of most powerful senators in FL.
– He can influence the other senators to vote on this bill.
– You’re calling is very important as he wants to get voted into office and he also is a very powerful and caring guy.
– (Diane Stein has met him and spoken with him)

As we have previously reported, Diane Stein is the well-known I/C, or “in charge” of the Clearwater arm of Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). But this bill is not uppermost in Senator Latvala’s mind as he deals with the fallout of the sexual harassment allegations, which could mean the end of his run for Governor, and perhaps his seat in the Legislature.

Jack Latvala first entered the Florida Senate in 1994, but because of term limits was out of office from 2003-2009. Since the 2012 redistricting he has represented the 16th District, which covers Clearwater and southern Pasco County. He narrowly lost the contest to become president of the Senate, and since the scandal broke has been removed as chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee. His wife, Susan Latvala, left office as Pinellas County Commissioner in 2014 after 22 years of service. Their son Chris Latvala represents Clearwater in the Florida House of Representatives.


[Scientologists protesting Florida’s Proposition 2]

None of the Latvala family are Scientologists, but all have been carefully recruited as allies. The policy is known as “safepointing,” which consists of the Office of Special Affairs (OSA) identifying Opinion Leaders, or OLs, in the community and engaging them in Scientology’s social reform campaigns, of which CCHR is one. Jack and Chris Latvala also shared a common viewpoint with Scientology front group Foundation for a Drug-Free World against Proposition 2. In 2016 voters approved this measure to expand the legality of medical marijuana in Florida.


[Susan Latvala poses at a 2004 fashion show at the Fort Harrison Hotel]

For years the family has attended Scientology-sponsored events. Although many city officials attended, in 2002 Susan Latvala was the only Pinellas Commissioner to attend a black tie party at the Fort Harrison Hotel to publicize their social reform programs. The St. Petersburg Times reported…

Tonight’s party ranks as another indicator Scientology is gaining acceptance in a community historically suspicious of the church, if not hostile. Clearly pleased by the number of acceptances, Scientologists say their volunteerism and other civic efforts are making a difference. Among those attending are politicians and civic leaders who years ago would have had serious reservations about wining and dining with Scientologists. State Sen. Jack Latvala and his wife, Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, plan to go. The church tried sponsoring a political forum at the Fort Harrison in 1992, Susan Latvala recalled, and she and other candidates struggled with the decision whether to attend. “Do you think we should go? It’s Scientology,” she said they asked one another. Of the 95 candidates invited, 17 showed up.

The Tampa Tribune reported on the same event…

Susan Latvala said hundreds of people have moved here to be near “the church and they own businesses and have become a part of the community. So now we know them as people, as citizens – sitting on boards, doing charity work,” Susan Latvala said. “That’s the relationship they’ve built that we’ve never had before. They’re such a big presence now, and it’s largely positive.”

Susan Latvala continued to provide positive press for Scientology. A Fox News article from 2007 ran with a headline that has not yet become a reality. “Florida City Accepts Status As Scientology Stronghold.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala was one of the first local politicians to warm up to Scientologists in the early 1990s and remains friendly with church officials. “They’ve become part of the community because they reached out and made an effort,” said Latvala, who got a $250 campaign donation from a Scientology-affiliated political action committee last year. “It’s really changed in the last 10 or 12 years.”

In 2009 Susan Latvala attempted to minimize the effect on the Clearwater community of Inside Scientology – The Truth Rundown, a series of articles in the St. Petersburg Times describing incidents of physical abuse from David Miscavige and imprisonment of top Scientology officials…

While some in the community saw potential for a new chill to seep into civic and church relations, many officials said in interviews that they viewed the stories as focused on Scientology’s California-based leadership, not the residents they deal with. Although she was “taken aback by some of the subject matter” of the reports, Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala said, “I don’t think it’s going to change anything. They’re here. I mean, people read it. It wasn’t a topic on the street. Their candidate forum is the biggest candidate forum in the county,” Latvala said, adding that she would probably attend a 2010 forum.

The series by Tom Tobin and Joe Childs was huge news in Clearwater, and remains one of the most significant indictments of Scientology in its history.


In 2015 Representative Chris Latvala attended the opening by Scientology of the drug rehabilitation facility Narconon Suncoast in Clearwater and is quoted on Scientology’s web site

“I have had the opportunity to talk to people who have completed the Narconon program,” said State Representative Latvala in reflecting on the impact Narconon has upon the individual. “They talk about leaving drug addiction for good and returning to their families clean and whole again. And I can’t wait to attend your Narconon graduations and behold the bright new lives and hopes that will spring forth from those doors. Our community needs this, and that is why I am very happy that Narconon Suncoast is here.”


[Chris Latvala poses with Scientologists Diane Stein and Gracia Bennish, representing front group Youth for Human Rights in April, 2017]

Jack Latvala and his family have been firm allies of Scientology for decades. Scientology lost significant influence when Susan Latvala retired, now the powerful Senator may be forced to resign. Contrary to the email sent to public Scientologists, he no longer has the power to shepherd Bill 270 through the Florida Senate. It may pass anyway, but the more important development is that a close ally of Scientology’s run for higher office appears to be at an end. The scandal means Jack and Susan Latvala’s path to become the next Governor and First Lady of Florida has become nearly impossible.

— Rod Keller


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,932 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 78 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,141 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,915 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,689 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,035 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,529 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,569 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,281 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 807 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,896 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,036 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,356 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,331 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 687 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,989 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,095 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,498 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,371 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 952 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,457 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,701 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,810 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on November 13, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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