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Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder resigning in wake of public records lawsuit

His resignation is part of a settlement agreement filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court stemming from allegations he violated public records laws.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder will hand-deliver a resignation to city leaders on Monday after a lawsuit called his handling of a public records request into question, court documents reveal.

His resignation is part of a settlement agreement filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court. It’s the outcome of a lawsuit real estate development consultant Stephen Michelini filed against Dingfelder, alleging he committed a number of Public Records Act violations stemming from August 2021.

According to court documents, Michelini requested emails and documentation related to a possible development on W. Gandy Blvd. Michelini accused Dingfelder of using his wife’s personal email to address public business matters related to the proposed project centering around 81Bay Brewing Company. Attachments in the court filing show where 81Bay Brewing said it is fighting developers who want to buy the property to build apartments.

According to the settlement agreement, Dingfelder will also deliver an apology letter, which gives a more detailed glimpse into Michelini’s accusations against him. “All citizens have the absolute right to learn about and promptly discover how elected officials (and all other government employees) discuss, communicate, and debate about matters of public concern. Rather than honor that fundamental right, I engaged in activities that were contrary to the spirit and intent of open government and transparency,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to also address a confrontation between Dingfelder and Michelini, saying: “…it was inappropriate and inexcusable for me to confront you outside City Council Chambers on Sept. 2, 2021, in connection with those requests. Going forward, I will inform all who will listen that openness and transparency is the bedrock of public service, and remind my colleagues that public records requests should be taken seriously and promptly fulfilled.”

Dingfelder is expected to hand-deliver his resignation to Mayor Jane Castor, City Council Chair Orlando Gudes and the city attorney on Monday. He was first elected to council in 2003, re-elected in 2007 and returned in 2019.

The settlement agreement states the resignation letter should read: “Effective immediately, I John Dingfelder, resign from my position as Tampa City Council member.” The agreement also says he is not to discuss the resignation or reasons behind it with the press.

Chairman Gudes told 10 Investigates on Saturday he was saddened to hear of the case, calling Dingfelder a good friend and a good member of council. He also said Dingfelder’s resignation could impact the city council’s ability to make pressing decisions moving forward. “The legal department will tell us what’s next,” he said.

City of Tampa spokesman Adam Smith said in an email city council will have 30 days to fill the vacancy Dingfelder leaves, according to section 10.01 of the City Charter.

Emerald Morrow is an investigative reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@10tampabay.com.


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