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Lawsuit against Tampa Councilman Orlando Gudes dismissed, lawyer says

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Posted at 8:06 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 10:08:12-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — An attorney representing Tampa Councilman Orlando Gudes said Friday morning that the lawsuit filed against Gudes in May has been dismissed.

Ryan Barack released the following statement:

"The Court, after reviewing the filings and cases cited by the parties and hearing arguments of the lawyers, agreed with Councilmember Gudes and dismissed the lawsuit. Councilmember Gudes has been and intends to continue to focus his time and energy on the important matters facing the City like the affordable housing crisis, rent stabilization, and preventing senseless gun violence."

The lawsuit, filed by a former legislative aid, claimed defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In March, it was announced that Gudes was accused of sexual harassment by the same aid in 2021. The city said the employee reported Gudes to HR in August 2021. The following month, the city hired an outside law firm to investigate.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

The firm, Trenam Law, documented 19 separate allegations, which included:

  • Chairman Gudes making crude sexual statements
  • Chairman Gudes making sexual gestures
  • Chairman Gudes making derogatory comments about multiple women
  • Chairman Gudes calling the employee “Celie,” the name of a character constantly abused in The Color Purple

The firm interviewed 20 witnesses, including Gudes, during its investigation.

"It concluded that the employee appeared to be credible and found several of the allegations corroborated by witnesses, including an intern who worked in the office," the City of Tampa said. "Trenam concluded that 18 of the 19 allegations appeared more likely than not to have occurred."

After the findings were released, Gudes released the following statement:

"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.

I made the mistake of hiring a friend and not establishing new boundaries for the relationship because the dynamic had changed. I take full responsibility for not recognizing this change. I considered her a long-time family friend and I regularly socialized with her, her boyfriend, and several other individuals, both before and during her employment. In addition, she and I worked closely as she was my Legislative Aide since my election. These circumstances led me to make jokes and comments that were not appropriate for the workplace but would not be uncommon among old friends, which is what I considered us to be at the time. I sincerely apologize to my former Legislative Aide for my words that caused her discomfort.

Many of the accusations are false and there are certain remarks that I have been accused of making that I have denied and must continue to categorically deny. However, I admit that some of the statements are true, though unfortunately taken out of context. Additionally, I believe there are ways I can improve on effectively communicating with and managing others, and to assist me with this, I have decided to engage the services of an Executive Coach, Gena Cox, PhD, at my own expense. It is my hope that through this process I can further develop my own leadership skills and workplace sensitivity so that I can be at my best to better serve my constituents and this City.

Again, I accept responsibility for my actions and apologize for the comments. I intend to learn from this experience, I intend to be a better person, and I intend to be a better Councilman and role model in my community."

Following the allegations, Gudes stepped down as the chair of the Tampa City Council.