ORLANDO, Fla. – Chris Dorworth, a former Florida state legislator and longtime associate of Congressman Matt Gaetz, abruptly departed his position at a lobbying firm Friday night.
Dorworth joined Ballard Partners in 2012 after losing his seat in the Florida House of Representatives in an upset election that deprived the Lake Mary Republican of serving as the next House Speaker.
“The current political climate is nasty, and I told Brian I don’t think its fair for the recent media storm to take away from their missions,” Dorworth wrote on Twitter Friday night, presumably referring to the lobbying firm’s president, Brian Ballard.
Dorworth’s biography and photo have been removed from the Ballard Partners website.
The voicemail on Dorworth’s cellphone was full when News 6 attempted to contact him for comment late Friday, and he did not immediately respond to a message on social media. Ballard Partners’ Orlando office was closed and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dorworth served in the Florida legislature alongside Gaetz and has remained close, social media posts suggest.
Gaetz, Dorworth and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg posed for a photograph together outside the White House in June of 2019.
Greenberg, who is facing 33 federal charges including child sex trafficking, will likely enter into a plea agreement with prosecutors, according to his attorney.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s probe into Greenberg prompted a parallel criminal investigation into Gaetz, according to the New York Times.
Gaetz, who has denied any wrongdoing and is not charged with any crimes, announced Friday that he has begun assembling a team of lawyers to fight what a spokesperson described as people “trying to smear his name with falsehoods.”
Hours later, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Gaetz, citing reports of sexual and other misconduct.
Citing two unnamed sources, The New York Times reported Thursday that Dorworth and Gaetz discussed the possibility of putting a third-party candidate on the ballot in 2020 to help Jason Brodeur win the District 9 state senate seat that represents parts of Seminole and Volusia counties.
Gaetz denied any involvement in the Central Florida senate race.
“The allegation by ‘two unnamed sources’ that I had something to do win [sic] an NPA candidate for the state senate in 2020 is total nonsense,” Gaetz wrote on Twitter Friday. “Like so many falsehoods about me, there will never be evidence of this because it didn’t happen.”
Dorworth told the New York Times that he did not recall a conversation with Gaetz about running a third candidate and that “there would be nothing illegal about it if we had,” the newspaper reported.