1200 Weimer Hall | P.O. Box 118405
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-5551

A service of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

© 2024 WUFT / Division of Media Properties
News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Florida State Rep. Anika Omphroy Said Rep. Carlos Smith Bullied, Threatened Her

Updated: Feb. 12, 7:51 a.m.: House Speaker Jose Oliva has launched a workplace harassment investigation after newly elected Florida State Rep. Anika Omphroy, D-Lauderdale Lakes, wrote in an open letter Monday to the House Democratic Caucus  that she was “bullied, threatened and verbally assaulted” by Orlando Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith at an event over the weekend.

Omphroy posted the letter to Twitter saying she was sitting with others at a Democratic Party event on Saturday when Smith came towards her in a threatening way and knelt in front of her legs.

pic.twitter.com/R2P0x34KEu — Rep. Anika Omphroy (@RepOmphroy) February 11, 2019

— Rep. Anika Omphroy (@RepOmphroy) February 11, 2019

Over one hundred Democratic leaders attended the event at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. When Smith approached her, Omphroy tried to “re-adjust” her dress, but he “trapped her movements,” she wrote.

“Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith pounded his hand and lashed out at me with a barrage of offensive verbal assaults, and a display of blatant aggression in the presence of others who witnessed his behavior,” she wrote.

Smith responded, denying the accusations.

"Rep. Omphroy and I agree that we had a tense conversation about an important issue to both of us, but the details in her letter are simply false and did not occur," he said in a statement.

The exchange happened in front of other officials who had a “completely different understanding” leaving him “stunned and confused” when he read the letter, he said.

Smith also responded to Omphroy on Twitter, asking for a constructive conversation.

. @RepOmphroy and I agree that we had a tense conversation about an important issue to both of us, but the details in her letter are simply false + did not occur. I walked away from the exchange, which happened in a public space in front of multiple elected officials with....1/3 — Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) February 11, 2019

I already reached out to @RepOmphroy and to the Speaker to have this dialogue + hope she is interested in doing it in a constructive way. 3/3 — Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) February 11, 2019

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said she witnessed the incident and there was no wrongdoing on Smith’s part.

“None of that is accurate,” she said about the accusations. “No one raised their voice. He is never one to be verbally abusive.”

Smith had a question about one of Omphroy’s points made earlier at the event, so he knelt down to talk to her, Eskamani said.

A few minutes later, Smith walked over to Eskamani, a few tables away, looking shocked and confused, she said.

“From his experience of the conversation, it was nothing like that,” she said.

But Eskamani noted that she didn’t want to dismiss Omphroy’s experience. She added that Smith called Omphroy to resolve the issue, but she's unsure whether Omphroy has returned his call.

Omphroy’s letter called on fellow members to address Smith’s behavior. Omphroy said “some” have told her to be quiet about it and some have said that it’s normal behavior on part of Smith.

She rejected both of those arguments and said she won’t be silenced, noting that she expected to be attacked on social media after writing it.

“As I write this letter, there still looms the possibility of retaliation and attacks on my person,” she wrote.

Oliva asked Adam Tanenbaum, House General Counsel and Allison Deison to begin the process of investigating by reaching out to both parties, according to a letter Oliva wrote to Omphroy and Smith.

Eskamani said that even if the incident involved a misinterpretation of actions, an investigation would be helpful to find a solution.

Omphroy represents District 95 that encompasses Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderhill and North Lauderdale.

Smith is currently in his second term after being elected in 2016. His district includes east Orange County.

Cat is a reporter for WUFT News and Fresh Take Florida who can be reached by calling 954-657-3385 or emailing cgloria@ufl.edu.