Joe Henderson: No doubt about it, Tampa City Council Chairman must go

Tampa-skyline-orlando Gudes
Calls for Orlando Gudes' resignation increased after a scathing report detailed sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

The Tampa City Council generally is a place where members discuss and vote on stuff that affects the lives of local citizens. It’s serious work, or that’s what we thought, anyway.

However, when the microphones and cameras were off, things changed. Chairman Orlando Gudes apparently morphed into some mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging bully around female staffers. You can’t get away with that stuff, and Gudes did not.

He is the subject of a scathing 60-page report after a female aide complained in August 2021 that Gudes created a hostile work environment.

The investigator said he did, and that’s putting it mildly.

“It is my conclusion that the Claimant has provided evidence demonstrating that she suffered harassment based on her sex,” Thomas Gonzalez wrote in the report.

Gudes sounds like the boss from hell, although it’s likely soon will be a “former” boss.

“The Claimant alleges that Respondent remarked to her daughter that she needed to stand up straight because she ‘had really big boobs and if (she) kept standing like that your boobs will be down to here,'” the report said.

That’s not all.

“The Claimant alleges that the Respondent (Gudes) referred to a city employee with a homophobic slur and said that the employee was “in the same club as the Mayor. ‘She’s in the bulldagger club,'” Gonzalez wrote.

Mayor Jane Castor, who is gay, responded sharply to what the former police officer allegedly said.

“Since Orlando Gudes is an elected official, I have no authority over him,” Castor wrote. “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.”

Oh, let’s not forget this one, which involved former President Barack Obama.

“The intern reported that the Respondent (Gudes) made a comment about an Obama daughter’s ‘hot body’ and expressed the opinion that he ‘bet she (the Obama daughter) was wild,'” Gonzalez wrote.

So, he’s homophobic and also a creepy old man.

We’ll pause for a moment and let an open-ended question hang in the air. Specifically, what kind of mope thinks it’s ok to say stuff like that in the workplace in 2022 (or ever)? That’s especially true when you’re a high-profile mope like Gudes.

And this just in: He still doesn’t get it.

In a statement, Gudes said, “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.”

Not appropriate? Dude, get a grip.

It was way beyond inappropriate. The law says it was sexual harassment.

You know, Mr. Chairman, you might want to leave a resignation letter on your desk. And then you should slither out of the Council chambers under cover of night.

You must put your constituents’ needs ahead of your own because there is no way you can effectively represent them now. Your political future is toast, and your present isn’t looking so good either.

I’m far from the only one saying that, however.

Council members Luis Viera and Joseph Citro said Gudes should resign.

“No person who behaves with women as is detailed in this report should hold public office, much less chair City Council,” Viera said.

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board said Gudes should go.

Look around, Mr. Chairman. You went too far, and it’s time to pay the price.

It’s over. Be gone.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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