John Dingfelder to resign from Tampa City Council

The council member will give up his seat Monday to put an end to a public records lawsuit.
Council member John Dingfelder during a city council meeting in 2019.
Council member John Dingfelder during a city council meeting in 2019. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published March 12, 2022|Updated March 12, 2022

TAMPA — John Dingfelder will relinquish the Tampa City Council seat he’s held since 2019 on Monday as part of an agreement to resolve a lawsuit filed against him by a local consultant for developers, according to legal documents reviewed Saturday by the Tampa Bay Times.

The legal agreement, signed Friday by Dingfelder and the consultant, Steve Michelini, was emailed by City Attorney Gina Grimes to the remaining six council members early Saturday morning.

Dingfelder, 65, had been embroiled in the lawsuit for months. Michelini filed it in October, alleging Dingfelder had abused state public records laws and threatened him at City Hall after a public records request was filed.

Related: Tampa City Council member sued over public records

According to the agreement, Michelini will drop an ethics complaint. Both sides will pay their own legal fees. An apology letter was required by the settlement and was attached to the legal documents. Dingfelder had already written an apology for the City Hall confrontation with Michelini before the lawsuit suit was filed.

In his latest letter, Dingfelder apologized again for confronting Michelini outside City Council chambers in early September. He conceded, without specifying, that he “engaged in activities that were contrary to the spirt and intent of open government and transparency.”

“I cannot take back what occurred in the past,” Dingfelder wrote. “I do, however, believe I should step away from public office.”

Dingfelder didn’t respond to several attempts to contact him by phone and text Saturday. His pending resignation was reported late Friday night by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. As of Saturday morning, Mayor Jane Castor hadn’t received his resignation, said Adam Smith, the mayor’s spokesperson. Smith said the mayor had no other comments. Later, Smith emailed a statement that said Grimes’ office had been advised that Dingfelder will deliver his resignation to city officials on Monday.

It is unclear why the City Attorney’s office had a copy of the agreement, which was reached between Dingfelder and Michelini. Grimes didn’t return a phone call requesting comment on Saturday.

Michelini declined comment Saturday. His lawyers didn’t return a phone call requesting comment.

City Council Chairperson Orlando Gudes said he hadn’t received Dingfelder’s resignation late Saturday morning.

According to Tampa’s city charter, all vacancies must be filled within 30 days. Dingfelder’s resignation would mean that a majority of the six remaining council members would have to vote to elect his replacement.

Council members were declining to comment or did not respond to requests for comment early Saturday.

Dingfelder’s departure means that only six members will be on the City Council to vote on Castor’s pick for Police Chief. Castor has selected Mary O’Connor, but the council’s confirmation of her remains uncertain as is how Dingfelder’s departure affects the political calculus.

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Dingfelder was elected to a citywide seat in 2019. He had previously served on City Council from 2003 until June 2010 when he resigned to run for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission. As a council member, he earned about $50,000 a year. He was up for reelection in 2023.

Dingfelder had been a strong advocate for neighborhoods, especially South of Gandy, where his opposition to large apartment complexes, an issue that has nettled many residents, brought him into conflict with Michelini and developers.