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Politics / Issues

Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes sexually harassed an employee, a city investigation finds

Orlando Gudes listens during meeting
Screenshot: City of Tampa
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Tampa officials say allegations of sexual harassment against City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes, shown during a recent Tampa City Council meeting, are credible.

They did not include sexual advances, but said Gudes made crude sexual statements and gestures, as well as inappropriate comments about multiple women, according to the investigation.

Tampa officials say allegations of sexual harassment against City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes are credible.

According to a Monday release from the city of Tampa, the allegations addressed 19 specific accusations presented to the city's HR department last August by a woman who Gudes said he considered a longtime friend before hiring her.

They did not include sexual advances, but said Gudes made crude sexual statements and gestures, as well as inappropriate comments about multiple women.

Thomas Gonzalez, a counsel for the city's HR department, presented the findings and his attorney.

Gudes' attorney denied the allegations in the release. He said Gudes apologized, and acknowledged some of his comments were inappropriate.

The city hired Trenam Law to investigate the allegations and interviewed 20 witnesses — including Gudes. It said 18 of those 19 allegations appeared more likely than not to have occurred.

“It is my conclusion that the claimant has provided evidence demonstrating that she suffered harassment based on her sex,” Gonzalez wrote, following the investigation.

The city has no authority to take action against an elected official like Gudes. But in a statement, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said he would be fired if he were a city employee.

"Since Orlando Gudes is an elected official, I have no authority over him," Castor's statement read. "However, if he were a city employee, he would be fired over these credible and corroborated sexual harassment revelations.

"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.”

According to the release, action the employee can take include filing a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Florida Commission on Human Relations. The city must then respond to the complaint or settle.

Trenam Law provides financial support to WUSF Public Media.

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