Background and Statement:
Council Chairman Orlando Gudes Investigation
TAMPA, Fla. (Monday, March 28, 2022) -- The City of Tampa has received a number of inquiries regarding the sexual harassment allegations against City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes.
The following includes a quote from Mayor Jane Castor and background on what occurred.
Tampa’s HR department in August, 2021 received a complaint from a city employee about pervasive abuse and sexual harassment by their supervisor, City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes. The alleged sexual harassment did not include sexual advances, but rather frequent offensive conduct and abuse.
The City of Tampa is obligated to investigate when receiving a complaint about discrimination and sexual harassment, although this was an unusual situation in that it involved an elected official who does not report to the mayor, the city attorney, or any other official of the city of Tampa.
Because this complaint involved an elected official, which is unprecedented, the City on Sept. 14 hired an independent, outside law firm, Trenam Law, to investigate the 19 specific allegations. Those included: Chairman Gudes making crude sexual statements; Gudes making sexual gestures; Chairman Gudes making derogatory comments about multiple women; and Chairman Gudes calling the employee “Celie,” the name of a character constantly abused in The Color Purple.
Trenam interviewed 20 witnesses, including Chairman Gudes. 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. Trenam concluded that 18 of the 19 allegations appeared more likely than not to have occurred.
The HR Department’s longtime outside counsel, Thomas Gonzalez, provided a confidential draft of the findings to Chairman Gudes and his attorney, who submitted a response on Feb. 23. His attorney denied Chairman Gudes engaged in unlawful behavior, denied all the specific allegations, and said Chairman Gudes apologized for any words that caused the employee discomfort. He said the chairman and the employee had been longtime friends before he hired them and that in hindsight, some of his comments were inappropriate.
Attorney Gonzalez reviewed the Trenam report and response by Chairman Gudes’ attorney and drafted a memorandum of law based on the facts. “It is my conclusion that the claimant has provided evidence demonstrating that she suffered harassment based on her sex,” Gonzalez wrote.
The city has no authority to discipline or take action against an elected official, but the employee who complained has several options:
File a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Florida Commission on Human Relations. In that case, the City of Tampa must respond to the complaint or settle it.
File a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Statement from Mayor Jane Castor:
"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. 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.”
MEDIA PLEASE NOTE:
Requests for public records MUST be made through the portal with GovQA.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
City of Tampa Marketing and Communications Director