The Florida GOP employed a legislation agency that performed a three-month investigation into sexual-harassment allegations involving occasion Chairman Joe Gruters however was “unable to substantiate the allegations and no accuser with firsthand data was prepared to return ahead,” the occasion mentioned in an announcement Tuesday night.

The assertion got here in response to Florida Politics first reporting about an allegation being leveled in opposition to Gruters.

An e mail blast to occasion members, first obtained by FP, confirmed {that a} third-party investigator was introduced on by the occasion after a grievance from a male staffer was made.

“When the Republican Celebration of Florida (RPOF) was knowledgeable of allegations made in opposition to Chairman Joe Gruters, the Government Director and Common Counsel instantly recused themselves from any investigation and employed a third-party unbiased legislation agency to conduct the investigation,” the e-mail reads. “The RPOF was not concerned within the investigation, didn’t direct the legislation agency, or restrict the legislation agency in any manner in anyway in its investigation.”

“Following an intensive investigation lasting greater than three months, the unbiased third occasion legislation agency reported again and knowledgeable elected RPOF officers together with the Vice Chairman and Nationwide Committeeman and Nationwide Committeewoman that they had been unable to substantiate the allegations and no accuser with firsthand data was prepared to return ahead with a grievance of allegations of harassment or different misconduct.”

That confirms what many sources near Gruters confused all through the day after information first broke, that any investigation of the Chair had concluded months in the past. Many within the occasion additionally expressed frustration only some in state management had been made conscious an investigation occurred.

The RPOF e mail addresses that as nicely.

“Usually, such experiences are given simply to the Chairman, however on this occasion, as a result of the Chairman was the topic, the outcomes of the investigation had been made recognized to senior elected RPOF leaders,” the e-mail continues. “The unbiased third occasion legislation agency was unable to acquire any firsthand info substantiating the knowledge or corroborating the allegations made. Based mostly on these findings, the RPOF had no foundation on which to take any additional motion.

“When a grievance or allegation of harassment of any type is obtained, it’s handled beneath the long-standing Republican Celebration of Florida’s Whistleblower Coverage. It’s the Coverage of RPOF to research, and appropriately reply to claims, complaints and allegations in opposition to RPOF staff and officers. If the RPOF receives an allegation or grievance, our Coverage requires an investigation to be accomplished. Additionally it is the Coverage to maintain such info confidential to guard the integrity of any investigation and to guard the rights of each the accuser and the accused.”

The message hit inboxes on the finish of a tumultuous day in Florida Republican politics after FP broke information of the allegations.

Gruters launched an announcement Tuesday morning saying he knew of no open investigations by the state occasion into any allegations in opposition to him.

“I’m unaware of any open investigations in opposition to me,” Gruters mentioned. “Whether or not it’s me or any member of the Celebration, we take these issues critically and deal with them with the utmost respect.”

These feedback got here after RPOF officers confirmed there had been an investigation.

“The Republican Celebration of Florida (RPOF) has a zero tolerance coverage towards harassment of any type,” mentioned Helen Aguirre Ferre, Government Director for the RPOF, in a media assertion. “Any grievance RPOF receives relating to harassment in the direction of its staff or members is taken very critically and totally reviewed in accordance with RPOF inside HR insurance policies and all relevant legal guidelines and rules.”

Those self same feedback appeared within the e mail to occasion members.

Gruters concurred with the assertion general.

“I absolutely agree with the assertion from the RPOF and agree with its sentiment,” Gruters mentioned.

The occasion chairman was set to satisfy Tuesday with occasion officers, together with RPOF counsel Ben Gibson, in regards to the sexual harassment investigation, sources instructed Florida Politics. A state Senator, Gruters additionally met along with his legislative workers.

In the meantime, three sources near Gruters confirmed a grievance was filed in January, however mentioned an investigation had closed in March. The investigation didn’t affirm any wrongdoing on Gruters’ half, the sources mentioned.

A number of sources say preliminary allegations arose across the time of the 2021 Legislative Session. A report in Politico says the matter got here after “a male aide provided to drive Gruters house from the bar” and Gruters allegedly sexually harassed the staffer that night. Florida Politics has not confirmed these particulars.

Sources inside RPOF mentioned the grievance was filed not by the alleged goal of any alleged harassment, however by a person with whom he had shared an account of the occasion. One mentioned after the RPOF introduced an outdoor investigator in on the matter, the important thing witness didn’t cooperate with the investigation.

That gave the impression to be confirmed by the e-mail blast that said nobody with first-hand data of harassment would take part in an inquiry.

Katie Betta, deputy chief of workers for Senate President Wilton Simpson, mentioned no investigation was ever performed throughout the legislative physique.

“There isn’t any grievance within the Senate,” Betta mentioned.

Once more, Gruters allies believed the matter was closed in March, at which level RPOF Vice Chair Christian Ziegler, Republican Nationwide Committeeman Peter Feaman and Republican Nationwide Committeewoman Kathleen King had been first knowledgeable of the investigation.

Different members of the committee didn’t study in regards to the investigation till a lot later, some mentioned Tuesday. Rumors about an investigation started to unfold in occasion circles late final week.

Ziegler, a Sarasota County Commissioner and shut ally of Gruters, provided a reserved remark.

“The Republican Celebration of Florida takes all allegations of harassment of any type critically and do full investigations, regardless of the allegations,” Ziegler mentioned.

Some sources vital of Gruters maintained some alarm that nobody on the chief committee moreover Ziegler, Feaman and King had been knowledgeable of the allegations or that an investigation had even taken place. One supply near Gruters mentioned even he solely discovered of the investigation final week.

A number of Gruters allies prompt political motivation was behind accusations surfacing now.

Gruters, previously co-chair of President Donald Trump’s marketing campaign in Florida, rose to state chair in 2018 and was reelected in January.

Many famous Gruters had been instrumental in organizing a Sarasota rally for the previous President weeks in the past.

Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t attend the rally as a result of he was remaining on the time on the website of a Surfide condo collapse. That led to friction as DeSantis hoped Trump would cancel or postpone the rally, nevertheless it went on as scheduled.

Gruters, on the rally, led cheers of “Trump 2024” and has mentioned the President might run a profitable marketing campaign for President in three years. That’s notable contemplating DeSantis can also be contemplating a run.

Officers within the Governor’s workplace weren’t certain DeSantis had even heard about an investigation.

“That is one thing for the Republican Celebration of Florida,” mentioned DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw. “I work within the state workplace so we within the state workplace are usually not concerned within the political facet, and that is clearly one thing that considerations the political facet.”

Gruters was elected to the Senate in 2018 after serving one time period within the Florida Home, and was reelected in November. He’s the longtime chair of the Republican Celebration of Sarasota, and is thought to have ambitions of sometime working for Congress.

He’s married to Sydney Gruters, a staffer for U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, and the couple have three youngsters.

___

Peter Schorsch and Haley Brown contributed to this report. The story was bolstered by reporting by the Information Service of Florda.


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