TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes has stepped down as Council Chairman.
It happened early in Thursday morning's Tampa City Council meeting as questions and concerns continue to mount regarding the sexual harassment allegations facing Gudes.
"I want to thank all of the supporters, supporters who called, and we’re going to stand strong, and I appreciate that because I needed that," said Gudes. "The way I’ve been just beat up. You know, I’m a soldier. I’m not a coward. I’m strong. That’s why I’m here today. I’m not going to give up the fight, can’t give up the fight.”
During Thursday's meeting, Gudes said everyone has their day to be vindicated and that he's waiting for that day. But in light of moving forward, Gudes said a leader can't be in turmoil and try to lead. He then made a motion to step down as Chairman with Guido Maniscalco taking over that role. The Council voted unanimously.
Still, Gudes said he will not be resigning. ABC Action News caught up with City Council members about the situation Thursday afternoon.
“That’s up to him, but it’s not me to make that decision," said Maniscalco. "When we voted for the police chief, I talked about forgiveness and second chances. Some people say he’s had enough second chances, but it’s not me to pass judgment."
“Let me put it this way: if it was me, if I was in that same shoe, for myself and for my family, I would resign, but that’s not me," said Charlie Miranda.
Several people spoke during public comment on the situation with Gudes and appeared split on the issue, with some telling Gudes to stay strong, while others asked for him to resign.
Thursday afternoon, journalists, who were promised an update from that former aide's attorney, got a surprising update from attorney Grady Irvin.
"I just found out perhaps within the past twenty minutes or so that I am no longer going to speak on behalf of the claimant," he said at a scheduled press conference.
Irvin offered no explanation for the sudden change in plans and representation.
A small group of protestors in support of Gudes gathered outside of City Hall Thursday evening.
They told ABC Action News that they want Gudes to be known for his extensive work in the community and they called on the community to rally behind him.
"Let us not be separated because of this nonsense. Let it play out in the court of law. Justice will prevail," said Fran Tate.
In a Monday press release, the City of Tampa released a report focused on Gudes’ past conduct. It said a city employee went to the HR department in Aug. 2021 to report "pervasive abuse and sexual harassment" by Gudes, who was her supervisor.
A source with Tampa City Council — who spoke under condition of anonymity — said that, even though the council does not have the power to remove Gudes from office, the council can remove him from his role as the council chair. He voluntarily stepped down from that post though at Thursday's meeting.
- Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes accused of sexual harassment
- Fallout continues over sexual harassment allegations against City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes
Other discussions about the allegations, the source said, could be very limited Thursday because of the threat of litigation facing Gudes and the council.
Although Chairman Gudes is "an elected official who does not report to the mayor, the city attorney, or any other official of the city of Tampa," on Sept. 14, the city hired an outside law firm, Trenam Law, to investigate the allegations raised by the former aide.
“The alleged sexual harassment did not include sexual advances, but rather frequent offensive conduct and abuse," the city wrote.
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
"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 summarized. "Trenam concluded that 18 of the 19 allegations appeared more likely than not to have occurred."
Gudes apologized for inappropriate comments, but he and his attorney maintain that he didn’t break the law or commit sexual harassment. Again, Gudes said he will not resign.
“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,” Gudes wrote, in part. “I made the mistake of hiring a friend and not establishing new boundaries for the relationship because the dynamic had changed.”
On Tuesday, council members Luis Viera and Joseph Citro made statements encouraging Gudes to resign.
In a statement on Monday, Mayor Jane Castor also indicated that it’s time for Gudes to go.
"Since Orlando Gudes is an elected official, I have no authority over him. However, if he were a city employee, he would be fired over these credible and corroborated sexual harassment revelations," Castor said.