Four days after he publicly berated Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, Frank Artiles resigned from the Florida Senate.
In a letter dated Friday and sent to Senate President Joe Negron, Artiles said, “my actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, the citizens of our great State.
“I am responsible and I am accountable and effectively immediately I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.”
In a separate statement, Artiles said, “While I take full responsibility for using language that was vulgar and inappropriate, my family has fallen victim to a political process that can distort the truth for the sole purpose of political gain.”
The decision came amid harsh criticism of the Miami Republican who verbally abused Gibson late Monday night in the lounge of the private Governor’s Club near the Capitol. He lambasted her for her questions about bills he sponsored and her committee votes against them.
Gibson said Friday, “This has been an ordeal that no one should have to endure. I wish him well in all of his endeavors.”
Negron issued a statement that said, “Senator Artiles made the right decision.”
Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, said, “It was not only the right decision, but the honorable one, for himself and the people of Florida.
Braynon said, “I take no pleasure in these unfortunate events. 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.”
Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said, “Today, I see the best of Frank, a man who is fiercely loyal to his family and friends and wants what is best for them. I’m praying for Frank and his family during this difficult time. He took responsibility for his actions and made the right decision.”
Artiles took to the Senate floor Wednesday morning to apologize for his profanity-laced and racially offensive language when he criticized Gibson as well as Negron’s leadership. But he also said at the time that he would not resign and planned to run for re-election in 2018.
The legislative black caucus filed a formal complaint on Wednesday and requested the Senate expel Artiles, who was stripped of his committee chairmanship.
On Thursday, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said the remarks made were “reprehensible,” but stopped short of saying Artiles should resign. Gov. Rick Scott said he would “immediately fire” an employee who said what Artiles said.
Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts was acting as special master overseeing an investigation of Monday’s incident. Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto asked Roberts to provide a report by Tuesday. The rules committee was to decide if any action should be recommended to the full Senate with final approval on the floor requiring a two-thirds vote.
Negron’s Friday statement noted, “I have directed the Special Master to close her investigation. No further action by the Senate will be taken in regard to this matter.”
Tia Mitchell: (850) 933-1321