TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Members of the community spoke at Thursday’s Tampa City Council meeting in support of embattled city councilman Orlando Gudes.
This was the first meeting since a new civil lawsuit was filed against the councilman this week. Prior to the meeting, Gudes told News Channel 8 he did not want to comment on the lawsuit.
While Gudes did not address the lawsuit during the meeting, it became the focus.
The lawsuit was filed this week by Gude’s former legislative aide, who accused Gudes of sexually harassing her and making inappropriate comments to others. Earlier this year, Gudes admitted his comments were not appropriate for the workplace but denied that they reached the level of sexual harassment.
During public comment at the meeting Thursday, several people stood up and spoke in support of the Gudes.
“Councilman Gudes, we thank you for everything you’ve done in this district,” one woman said.
An independent investigation ordered by the City of Tampa determined earlier this year that the allegations had merit. This week, the city agreed to pay the former aide a $200,000 settlement.
Gude’s attorney criticized the move at the meeting.
“The actions of the mayor and the city attorney, using city funds to shield themselves and their human resources department, is outrageous,” Gudes’ attorney Ryan Barack said.
Council member Bill Carlson called on the city for transparency and fairness.
“The accused, Orlando Gudes, also deserves due process and I don’t believe he was given due process by the city,” said Carlson.
A city spokesperson emailed a statement in response saying, “An objective, independent, and thorough review found that a city employee endured nearly two years of abusive treatment and sexual harassment. The city’s goal is to conclude this matter and move forward positively on behalf of Tampa residents and taxpayers.”