Florida legislator accuses fellow lawmaker of bullying
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A South Florida lawmaker has accused a fellow Democratic legislator of bullying her at a meeting of party leaders, but the other lawmaker says the exchange was being mischaracterized.
Florida Rep. Anika Omphroy on Monday wrote a letter to the Florida House speaker saying that Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith lashed out at her with "verbal assaults" at the meeting of Democratic leaders at an Orlando hotel last weekend.
"Representative Guillermo Smith's behavior was a show of dominance over me as a woman," Omphroy wrote in the letter to Jose Oliva, the Republican House speaker, who referred the matter for an investigation. "No woman should suffer mental anguish or emotional distress from anyone, regardless of the abuser's political affiliation, race or sexuality."
Smith, who is gay, tweeted that the details in Omphroy's letter are false. The central Florida lawmaker said they had a tense conversation, but he is stunned and confused by her letter.
"I walked away from the exchange, which happened in a public space in front of multiple elected officials with a completely different understanding, which is why I was stunned and confused by her letter," said Smith, who added he has reached out to Omphroy and the speaker in an effort to start a dialogue. "I respect her + care about how we talk about these important issues together as colleagues."
Asked in a text to elaborate on Tuesday, Smith referred to his statement on Twitter. Omphroy didn't respond to a call and email to her office.
It is unusual for a Florida House member to file a complaint with leadership against a member of the same party, and it is particularly unusual because the dispute arose at a political event that had nothing to do with official House business.
A witness, Rep. Anna Eskamani, said Tuesday that the encounter happened after Omphroy spoke out against a resolution encouraging broader financial disclosures.
Rep. Omphroy spoke in opposition to the resolution and she said she was speaking "on behalf of the House," said Eskamani, a central Florida lawmaker who is friends with Smith.
The reference to speaking for the House confused other lawmakers, so Smith went over to Omphroy who was sitting a few tables away. He kneeled so he could be at eye level and "there was no aggression that could be seen from afar," said Eskamnai, who was sitting several tables away from the exchange.
Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee contributed to this report.