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Tampa finds that aide did indeed 'cough-curse' during City Council meeting

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times TP_364420_OROU_Henriquez (Photo 1 of 2) (01/08/2013) (Tampa, FL ) Bob “Coach” Henriquez gets a chuckle as he stumbles on his words as he is sworn in as Hillsborough County Property Appraiser by Public Defender Julianne Holt Tuesday morning next to him is his wife Carrie Henriquez holding the Bible. Photo by SKIP O’ROURKE | Times
Published Jul. 10

TAMPA — By the time she met with Tampa Human Resources director Kimberly Crum at the end of May, Carrie Henriquez had seen her life turned upside down on social media.

People around the world tried to decipher whether Henriquez, wife of Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, had coughed or cursed during a May 23 City Council meeting. Many of them had opinions. Many were unflattering.

A video of the meeting, which accompanied a story in the Tampa Bay Times about the episode, was watched nearly 200,000 times in the days after the story published as viewers tried to decide: Did she or didn't she?

At their May 29 meeting, according to a report obtained by the Times this week, Henriquez told Crum she did not utter a vulgarity as she coughed while walking behind City Council chairman Luis Viera.

Still, she told Crum she had plenty of reasons to chew out Viera — a fellow Democrat who represents north Tampa and New Tampa.

Viera was out to get her, Henriquez said, and she cited two instances where she said Viera treated women disrespectfully — including Henriquez.

"My concern is that I have been targeted in some manner for reasons I am unaware of," Henriquez wrote in a statement to Crum during their meeting.

The next day, Henriquez quit her job working for City Council member Guido Maniscalco, telling him the social media onslaught was a factor in her decision.

The city didn't believe her story.

In a June 27 report, Crum used the full vulgarity — abbreviated here — when she wrote, "It is determined that Ms. Henriquez did utter the word 'a--hole' as she coughed while exiting the dais."

City officials reviewed the meeting tape and removed "extraneous sound," the report said.

In addition, Crum took a dim view of Henriquez's theory that Viera was targeting her, according to the report, obtained through a public records request.

"The examples she cited she provided to support an allegation of being targeted in the workplace were not credible," Crum wrote.

READ MORE: City Council meeting disrupted by a cough? Or something more?

READ MORE: Legislative aide at center of "cough curse" controversy resigns

Reached Wednesday, Henriquez said she hadn't seen the report and had no comment on its conclusions. She said she currently isn't working.

Her husband, a former state representative, announced his bid for re-election as Hillsborough County Property Appraiser during the flap over the council meeting.

In her letter denying that she had called Viera a vulgar word, Henriquez made reference to her husband's political clout.

"My name and my family are well-known and well-regarded not just in the city but throughout the region," she wrote May 29, referring to the Times report as a "non-story" leaked to embarrass her.

At the time of the council meeting, City Hall had been rife with rumors that Carrie Henriquez was using strong-arm tactics to get her boss, Maniscalco, elected as the new council chairman. The duty comes with a little extra money for the chairman's aide as well as more power to set the council's agenda and control discussion during meetings.

Instead, when new members took office on May 1, Viera was elected chairman. The new council is made up of seven men. Henriquez told Crum that Viera made her feel "demeaned and unimportant" when he declined to discuss the coughing incident with her after the council meeting.

Viera has said he didn't want to discuss the incident while it was under investigation. Crum noted in her memo that she instructed Henriquez on May 24 not to discuss the incident further.

But within days, despite the directive, Henriquez denied to the Times that she had cough-cursed.

Former City Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin contacted the Times on Wednesday to defend Viera against the allegations against him by Henriquez.

Capin, the only woman on the council that left office in April, said she had never witnessed any inappropriate behavior by Viera towards women or anyone else.

"Luis Viera is the epitome of professionalism," said Capin said, who served with Viera for 2 1/2 years.

Six current and former legislative aides, all women, also released a statement Wednesday defending Viera.

"Luis Viera is an elected official of the highest moral character," begins the joint statement, signed first by Mary Bryan, legislative aide to Charlie Miranda and a city employee for more than 55 years.

Henriquez said Wednesday she wasn't forced to resign. She also said she wondered why anyone would care what the city investigation concluded considering she quit more than a month ago.

"I'm just trying to enjoy the summer with my kids before they're old enough to hate me," Henriquez quipped.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

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