Orlando Gudes removes himself as council chair following hostile workplace allegations

Gudes stepped down as chair today, after several councilmen have called on him to resign.

click to enlarge Orlando Gudes speaks about his decision to step down as Tampa City Council chair. - City of Tampa/CCTV
City of Tampa/CCTV
Orlando Gudes speaks about his decision to step down as Tampa City Council chair.
Councilman Orlando Gudes removed himself as city council chair today, following a report in which a former employee claimed he created a hostile work environment through abrasive sexual comments.

"In light of making sure that we move forward and making sure this council is steadfast, a leader can't be in turmoil and try to lead," Gudes said.

But Gudes also asserted that he would not be stepping down from Tampa City Council, saying, "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."

He made a motion to have Guido Mansicalco take over as council chair and handed him the gavel. Council voted unanimously to approve Gudes motion.

Earlier this week, Mayor Jane Castor's administration released a report that accused Gudes of creating a hostile work environment for a former aide by making misogynist comments toward her, along with her young daughter and other women.

Councilman Bill Carlson was the only one to make comment about Gudes decision to step down as chair. Carlson said that the comments described in the report are "obviously not acceptable."

"I feel terrible for the claimant and the claimants family who have not only had to endure the incidents described but now also the intense media coverage," Carlson said. "I would ask the media to understand that these are real people who we know and they're being impacted by loss of privacy."

Councilmen Maniscalco, Joe Citro and Luis Viera have called on Gudes to resign following the report.

During public comment, community members were split about Gudes, some saying these recent allegations are the tip of the iceberg, others saying that he was targeted for political purposes.

"I am so grateful that councilman Gudes found the look decency to remove himself as chair," Bishop Michelle B. Patty said. "There's a code of ethics the city has that he has violated."

Patty said that the victims listed in the report are just some of those who suffered from Gudes behavior, and said that the community needs to look at his record as a police officer.

"I'm not here to badger a black woman because I'm Black," said Robin Lockett. "So I'm not here to do that. But I do believe in the proper due process and what's right."

Lockett questioned why the full report about the accusations against Gudes wasn't released immediately, she also asked why the probe occurred in 2019 and why the Castor administration is just leaking it now.

Several other community members echoed Lockett's questions about the timing, and why Castor's administration leaked the report to the press without the full picture.

Two speakers also pointed out a contradiction between councilmen lauding second chances when approving Police Chief Mary O'Connor, but not in this situation.

"He did not physically strike an officer on duty doing their duty," Eddie Adams Jr. said. "And I think that's a felony, but somehow it was never considered to be a felony. And that person is now Chief of Police."

Fran Tate, who called in to stand behind Gudes on behalf of Jackson Heights Neighborhood Association and Jackson Heights Crime Watch,  said that the community should keep their focus on the demanding problems in the city.

"We ask everyone to allow the process to take place and allow the attorneys to do their job," Tate said. "We should not allow this matter to convince us to fight amongst ourselves, further promoting division and causing us to lose focus on our true fight. Repelling gentrification, demanding affordable housing, as well as housing rehabilitation, about older homes, locating money for rental assistance, bringing in economic development that supports our community."