Florida state senator resigns over fury of barroom insults

A Florida state senator from Miami resigned Friday in wake of a scandal over insults he hurled at two fellow senators in a private Tallahassee club.

GOP Sen. Frank Artiles sent a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican from Stuart, Fla., announcing his resignation, saying he was doing so to protect his family and the integrity of the legislative chamber.

"My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process and the citizens of our great state," Artiles wrote. "I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate."

Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican, responded quickly to Artiles resignation while visiting brush fires threatening Golden Gate Estates neighborhood in Naples, Fla.

"If he worked for me, I would have fired him," Scott said of Artiles. "It's disgusting. If somebody does that stuff, you fire him immediately."

Black lawmakers from the House and Senate called for Artiles' expulsion after his Monday night tirade against state Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale, both Democrats. Aritles called Gibson a pejorative of female dog and a "girl," and referred to some of his fellow Republicans using the N-word.

Artiles apologized Wednesday on the Senate floor for the comments he made from the bar inside the private Governors Club. But that did not settle any outrage.

Later that day, Thurston filed a formal complaint against Artiles with Negron, spurring a chamber investigation that was to conclude Tuesday.

Negron initially had said Artiles' apology settled the matter and his constituents would decide the politician's fate. On Friday, Negron said Artiles made the right decision.

"As Senator Artiles has noted, he holds himself responsible and accountable for his actions and comments," Negron wrote. “Despite the events of the last week, Senator Artiles has a long and proud record of public service.

"We all owe him a debt of gratitude for serving our country in the United States Marine Corps, where he fought for our freedom in the global war on terror," Negron said.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens said Artiles made a right and honorable decision.

"I take no pleasure in these unfortunate events," Braynon wrote. "But I urge that we learn from them. In our communities, our state, and our country, there should be a message of hope, of tolerance, of unity. We cannot afford the high cost words of divisiveness and cruelty leave in their wake.

“I wish Senator Artiles the best, and I hope that, upon reflection, he finds consolation in knowing that his actions, today, show the contrition demanded, and the Senate was owed," Braynon said.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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