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Reaction pours in following sexual harassment allegations against Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa City Councilman Orlando Gudes is facing serious allegations.

A city spokesman says a city employee made a sexual harassment complaint last August. Incidents that were investigated date back to 2019.

An attorney for Chairman Gudes denies his client engaged in unlawful behavior.

A Trenam Law report of the investigation into sexual harassment allegations says the investigation into Gudes began after his former legislative aide made a complaint in August 2021.

In September, the city hired Trenam Law to investigate 19 specific allegations of Gudes allegedly making crude sexual statements, sexual gestures and derogatory comments about several women.

The report says Gudes also called the employee “Celie,” the name of a character constantly abused in The Color Purple.

In a statement, Gudes admits his comments were not appropriate for the workplace but denies that they reached the level of sexual harassment.

He goes on to say, “I made the mistake of hiring a friend and not establishing new boundaries for the relationship.”

Councilman Joseph Citro says he’s disappointed, especially because of Gudes’ position.

“It’s a shame that this had to happen,” Citro said. “We as Tampa Councilman should be held to a higher standard.”

The attorney for Tampa’s HR department reviewed the Trenam report and Gudes’ response and wrote, “It is my conclusion that the claimant has provided evidence demonstrating that she suffered harassment based on her sex.”

Former City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern told 8 On Your Side in a statement, “This is clear cut. He should resign from council.”

Trenam concluded that 18 of the 19 allegations appeared more likely than not to have happened.

Since Gudes is an elected official, the city cannot take disciplinary action against him.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor issued a statement Monday saying she has no authority over Gudes, but would fire him if he was a city employee.

“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. “I know from many years in law enforcement 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.”

The City of Tampa says the employee can file a complaint with the state, or a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Florida Commission on Human Relations.

Orlando Gudes issued a statement Monday following the announcement.

“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.”

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