The Florida Senate abruptly canceled all formal meetings Thursday afternoon as Senate leaders scrambled to find a quick resolution to the political future of Sen. Frank Artiles, the Miami Republican being asked to resign by his Senate colleagues after his racist-laced comments about them in a bar earlier this week.
Artiles hired a lawyer and formally asked Senate President Joe Negron, the Senate's general counsel, Dawn Roberts, and five other senators to recuse themselves from the pending investigation, and appoint an independent investigator. He suggested the Senate does not have jurisdiction and the inquiry is flawed.
"Due to your various public comments concerning this m request that you recuse yourself from participating in debate or voting on any issues concerning Senator Artiles coming before the Senate,'' wrote Steven R. Andrews, a Tallahassee lawyer hired by Artiles. "Respectfully, your public statements seems to indicate that you may have prejudged this matter and may have improperly considered matters outside of the written complaint of Senator Thurston."
The letters came after Rep. Jose Oliva, the incoming House speaker, told the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau that he had reservations about the way Negron had handled the investigation, suggesting that it was setting Artiles up for a "kangaroo court" because the injured parties would be sitting in judgment on his fate.
Andrews argued that the short time period laid out by Negron -- requiring Roberts to produce a report to the Senate Rules Chairman Lizbeth Benacquisto by the close of business on Tuesday -- was a violation of his due process rights. He said that Artiles will depose Sens. Perry Thurston, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Anitere Flores and Oscar Braynon. Download Artiles letter to Dawn Roberts