TAMPA, Fla. — The fallout continues over the sexual harassment allegations by a former legislative aide against Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes, including calls to resign.
In response on Monday, Gudes said in a statement in part, “While I disagree with the entirety of the findings in the report regarding my former Legislative Aide, I do accept responsibility for comments that I made that, while not sexual harassment, were not appropriate for the workplace.”
However, some fellow colleagues appear to feel strongly about the claims. ABC Action News reached out to every Tampa City Council member on Tuesday.
Council Member Joseph Citro sent the following statement:
“I am deeply concerned with the findings of the HR Department of the City of Tampa regarding Chairman Gudes Monday. We take these findings incredibly seriously and we strive for a non-hostile work environment for all our employees. We must hold all our City Council members to a higher standard of conduct.
In order to move forward and to maintain the trust of the people of Tampa, I believe that the best course of action would be for Chairman Gudes to resign.
I commend the courage of the employee to speak out and file a complaint. I hope they can find resolution with the finalization of this report.”
On Tuesday, Council Member Luis Viera also sent a statement:
“I have read the full report on Chairman Gudes and sexual harassment. No person who behaves with women as is detailed in this report should hold public office, much less chair City Council. The statements detailed here are deplorable.
“More than anything, 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.”
ABC Action News reached out to Gudes Tuesday afternoon, and Gudes said by text message that he’s “not resigning.”
“There’s so many things that can happen, and until the complainant takes the next step, she has done everything to start the right way,” said Peter Cruise, the Executive Director of the FAU-LeRoy Collins Public Ethics Academy.
The City has stated it has no authority to discipline or take action against an elected official, but the employee who came forward has several options, including filing a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Florida Commission on Human Relations or filing a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Cruise weighed in about actions that could be taken at the state level.
“A Governor can suspend elected officials in this state for dereliction of duty or incompetence, but again, that is only a suspension pending further action by the state legislature, and the Governor usually does that with what we call constitutional officers, like sheriffs or supervisors of elections, clerk of courts, those positions that are named in the Florida constitution,” said Cruise. “It would be probably very unusual for a Governor to come into a city to deal with a City Councilperson at this point because there are three or four avenues that the complainant can pursue, and there would be no real need for the Governor to come in at this point.”
Following the publication of this story, Irvin Law Firm announced, on behalf of the former legislative aide, that the Gudes matter would be addressed during a press conference on Thursday, March 31.
"In the interim, we trust this will give Councilman Gudes enough time to reconsider his current stance not to resign—if he were to resign it would likely save the City and taxpayers protracted litigation costs, and it would allow the victims of any unacceptable and reprehensible conduct on the part of this elected official an immediate avenue to begin the healing process. We take Mayor Castor at her word that these are 'credible and corroborated sexual harassment revelations...that it takes a great deal of courage for a victim to make harassment and hostile work environment allegations against any supervisor, let alone one as powerful as a city council chairman.' According to Mayor Castor, Gudes would be fired if he were a city employee."