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Tampa reaches $200K settlement with former aide who accused Orlando Gudes of sexual harassment

Councilmember Gudes has denied sexually harassing anyone. His lawyer said he intends to vigorously defend all claims against him.

TAMPA, Fla. — The city of Tampa has agreed to pay a former legislative aide $200,000 in exchange for not being sued over the sexual harassment allegations against City Councilman Orlando Gudes, who recently stepped down as chairperson, court documents show.

The settlement carved out an exception that allows Gudes to still be sued directly. Thus, the former aide is still following through with suing the council member on behalf of herself and her daughter.

That lawsuit was filed May 16.

The suit accuses Gudes of making a sexual comment toward the child, among other allegations. The legislative aide also claimed, in the lawsuit, that Gudes refused to discuss community issues with local activists and leaders in his district who were not providing him sexual favors. 

According to the court documents filed, his former aide said Gudes refused to meet with a local pastor, saying, "What do I need to meet with her for? I'm not f------ her."

She also claims, in the lawsuit, that he sexually harassed her and others, including sniffing toward her private area one day while picking up work-related paperwork.

The suit alleges Gudes made comments about his former legislative aide's daughter's breasts, made homophobic comments about the mayor and commented on the aide's clothes.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor wrote an apology letter to the former aide, describing Gudes' behavior as "outrageous" and claiming he created "a hostile workplace."

"Nobody should have experienced the emotional turmoil and pain that you suffered," Mayor Castor wrote in the letter. "Your courage to stand up for what was morally and legally correct should be applauded by all of our employees. I certainly encourage all victims of discrimination to find the determination to speak out so that nobody encounters the kind of treatment that Councilman Gudes inflicted on you."

Castor reiterated that Gudes would already have been fired if he were, in fact, a city employee.

Ryan Barack, Gudes' attorney, said the council member only learned through the media that the city had reached a settlement with his former aide. Barack released the following statement in response to the situation:

"...It is important to remember that there has been no sworn testimony from anyone. Further, this purported agreement is designed to protect the Mayor, the City Attorney and their Human Resources department and was entered into prior to any lawsuit being filed. Just as the administration did not notify Councilmember Gudes of any alleged complaint for over a year, they also concealed these settlement negotiations from Councilmember Gudes or the City Council."

Barack said Gudes also only learned this week, also through media reports, that a lawsuit was being filed against him.

"This lawsuit was filed on Monday after the administration entered into this purported agreement with the former aide and her lawyer," Barack wrote. "Councilmember Gudes intends to vigorously defend all claims and will respond to the allegations at the appropriate time and in the proper forum."

    

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