Tampa council members react to police chief Mary O’Connor’s resignation

TAMPA — Councilman Charlie Miranda said he voted for Mary O’Connor as police chief in April because “there was no other choice. There was only one person standing in front of me” when he took the vote to confirm it.

Miranda privately backed former deputy police chief Butch Delgado, but publicly expressed support for the selection of Mayor Jane Castor. “I wasn’t going to divide the city any further. I wasn’t going to do that.

But news of O’Connor’s resignation on Monday morning left Miranda thinking about baseball. His coach used to tell his players that it was okay to make a mistake, but never a mistake. So, did you miss a ball on the ground? Mistake. But you forget how many outs there are with a third-place runner? Mistake.

“That would apply to Chief O’Connor,” Miranda said.

Miranda, a staunch Castor ally, said he was sorry another controversy capped a year full of drama at City Hall. He was joined by other board members in expressing similar regret.

“It’s sad. It’s really sad,” he said.

Orlando Gudes has a different relationship with Castor, who officially filed paperwork for his re-election a week ago.

Gudes accused the mayor and his staff of seeking to destroy her career because he opposed her on certain issues. Castor called on Gudes to step down in April after a city investigation found he created a hostile work environment for a former aide. Gudes resigned his presidency, but challenged Castor and remained on the board. Recently, Gudes appeared at several city events with the mayor.

Gudes said he wouldn’t “disparage” Castor for his poor choice as police chief, even though he was one of two votes against O’Connor in a council confirmation vote in April. And he said that as a “pious person”, he would not take the opportunity to revel in the mayor’s troubles.

“I will not do what was done to me,” Gudes said.

Bill Carlson, the other vote against O’Connor, texted his reaction to the news.

“The incident embarrassed our great city in national and international media. Bad decisions like this and the current U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation undermine our city’s ability to attract investment and the best and brightest entrepreneurs,” Carlson wrote.

He said the mayor needed to learn from “this mistake” and build consensus with “council and the community on important issues”.

Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak, who was appointed to city council after John Dingfelder resigned and was not on council when O’Connor was chosen as police chief, weighed in by releasing a statement.

“It is unfortunate that the decisions of former police chief O’Connor have brought us to this moment. I look forward to City Council having the opportunity to approve a new Chief of Police who will continue the department’s renewed focus on community engagement and the mental and physical health of officers,” the statement read.

Councilman Luis Viera, who has backed Castor on numerous issues since being elected in 2019, said Florida’s third-largest city needs to step up its game.

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“This whole episode was very disappointing on many levels. Our police officers and our residents deserve better,” he wrote.

Viera called for a “smooth transition” in choosing the next police chief.

“Our police and the city deserve a process that learns from the past and is robust, efficient and accountable — and as free from unnecessary political turbulence as possible,” Viera said.

Council members Guido Maniscalco and Joseph Citro did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

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