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Tampa council member Orlando Gudes says he won’t resign after hostile workplace findings

The Tampa City Council chairperson’s statement came in response to a call for his resignation from two colleagues.
 
Council members Luis Viera, left, and Joseph Citro, right, called on Chairperson Orlando Gudes, center, to resign Tuesday, a day after a city probe found Gudes created a hostile work environment for a former aide.
Council members Luis Viera, left, and Joseph Citro, right, called on Chairperson Orlando Gudes, center, to resign Tuesday, a day after a city probe found Gudes created a hostile work environment for a former aide. [ Tampa Bay Times ]
Published March 29, 2022|Updated March 30, 2022

TAMPA — Tampa City Council chairperson Orlando Gudes said Tuesday morning he doesn’t plan to resign amid a growing chorus calling for him to relinquish his seat after a city probe found he had created a hostile working environment for a former aide.

Gudes’ comments to the Tampa Bay Times came minutes after a colleague, Luis Viera, released a statement calling for him to step down. Another council member later joined Viera in calling for his resignation.

“No person who behaves with women as is detailed in this report should hold public office, much less chair City Council,” read Viera’s statement, which noted that he had read the entire 60-page report released by the city Monday.

When asked for comment, Gudes said he planned to meet with his attorney Ryan Barack this morning, but didn’t plan to give up his seat.

“I don’t think I’ll resign, no,” Gudes said.

Council member Joseph Citro followed Viera in calling for Gudes to step down later Tuesday.

“With the report that has come out — and I have read every word — it sends a message to all the employees of the city of Tampa that they should not work in a hostile environment, and our women who work for the city of Tampa should definitely not be treated this way,” Citro told the Times. “I would prefer that Councilman Gudes resign.”

The city probe released Monday found Gudes created a hostile work environment for a former legislative aide by making a series of crude, sexual and sexist comments toward her, her teenage daughter and other women, including Mayor Jane Castor.

Related: Tampa City Council chairperson created hostile work environment, city probe finds

Castor, who is in Israel for the week on a trip with other U.S. mayors, issued a statement shortly after the report’s release, saying she would fire him if she could.

Gudes, as an elected official, is not subject to city discipline regarding employee workplace behavior.

State law allows Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend and, potentially, to remove Gudes from his seat. Castor’s spokesperson Adam Smith said no one in the administration has asked the governor to remove Gudes.

DeSantis’s office said the matter is under review.

“I do not think it would be accurate to rule it out entirely; as with other cases involving public officials, the governor’s office will review all the facts as they are available and make a decision,” said Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’s spokesperson.

If Gudes were to leave the City Council, his departure would be the second in recent weeks. All six remaining members of the nonpartisan council are Democrats.

The other members of City Council — Bill Carlson, Charlie Miranda and Guido Maniscalco — didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Earlier this month, council member John Dingfelder, also a Democrat, resigned to resolve a lawsuit against him by a local business consultant who alleged he had violated the state’s Sunshine Law.

Dingfelder’s legal settlement barred him from commenting publicly on his resignation beyond a statement that did not specify any wrongdoing but stated he had “engaged in activities that were contrary to the spirit and intent of open government and transparency.”

Related: John Dingfelder to resign from City Council

The remaining members of the City Council are expected to vote April 5 on who will replace Dingfelder. The city has set a deadline of Friday for applicants for the open seat.

Viera praised Gudes’ former aide, who remains employed by the city in another department, for her courage.

“I salute the remarkable fortitude of the claimant for speaking truth to the power of her former boss. The steps taken by the claimant show courage and integrity. The claimant is a hero. She deserves our unapologetic support and demands for accountability,” Viera wrote in the statement.

Viera, who represents North and New Tampa, was first elected in 2016.

Gudes, 54, is a retired Tampa police officer who was elected to his seat representing East Tampa, Ybor City, downtown and parts of West Tampa in 2019.

You can read the full report below:

Times Staff Writer Emily Mahoney contributed to this report.