TAMPA — At the outset of Thursday’s City Council meeting, Orlando Gudes gave a brief, defiant statement, saying he would give up his chairpersonship following a city finding that he had created a hostile work environment for a former aide.
But he won’t resign from the board, he said.
“Everyone has their day to be vindicated. I’m waiting for that day to happen,” Gudes said, adding that he realized that he couldn’t continue to lead the council at this time because of the controversy.
Gudes asked that council member Guido Maniscalco take over as chairperson. Council members voted unanimously to elect Maniscalco to the post.
Gudes thanked supporters who he said have stood behind him.
“We’re not going to give up the fight,” Gudes said. “I’m a soldier ... I’m not going to give up the fight.”
Mayor Jane Castor and two council members, Luis Viera and Joseph Citro, have said that Gudes should leave his council seat.
Castor had no additional comment Thursday, spokesperson Adam Smith said.
But neither the City Council nor the mayor have the power to remove him. Only Gov. Ron DeSantis can suspend or remove Gudes, 54, a retired Tampa police officer.
A city probe found Gudes had made a litany of sexist, homophobic and sexual comments stretching back to 2019 to his former aide. The aide worked for him until August 2021. She continues to work for the city in a different department.
The controversy swirling around Gudes is the second recent upheaval on the City Council. Earlier this month, John Dingfelder resigned his seat as part of a legal settlement involving allegations that he had violated the state’s public records law.
About a dozen speakers addressed the situation during public comment, with strong opinions voiced on both sides. Slightly more people signaled support for Gudes than not, with several suggesting that the Castor administration had targeted the council member, who has battled the mayor over police reform, rent stabilization and the budget since being elected to a seat representing East Tampa, Ybor City, downtown and parts of West Tampa in 2019.
“Politics is a blood sport. It’s being displayed here today,” said Eddie Adams Jr. “You guys are using the age-old book of how to get rid of a Black man.”
The Rev. Michelle B. Patty said Gudes had disgraced his office and called him a “pedophile” for his alleged comments about the former aide’s teenage daughter’s breasts. Gudes has denied making the comments.
After the meeting, council member Charlie Miranda continued to say that the decision to resign belonged to Gudes, but added: “If it was me, I’d resign.”
Maniscalco’s leadership role is temporary. The council is slated to elect a new chairperson for a one-year term in early May.
“It’s a very said situation all around,” he said.
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Maniscalco has the power to strip Gudes of his board seat at the Tampa Sports Authority, but said later Thursday that he has no plans to do so as he sees his current post as a caretaker position.
The council chairperson runs council meetings, determining who speaks and when. They also have a slightly larger office budget than other council members and approve spending by other council members. But the city charter also states that if the mayor were to vacate the office at this point in her term, the council chairperson would become mayor.
Later Thursday, a Tampa lawyer, Grady C. Irvin Jr., who had scheduled a news conference on behalf of Gudes’ former aide, told assembled reporters that he had just been informed minutes before that he no longer represented her. Irvin took no questions before walking back inside his law office.