TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A lawsuit was filed against against Tampa City Councilman Orlando Gudes on Monday, alleging a number of instances of abuse by Gudes against several people, including a former legislative aide, her daughter and college-age interns.
The lawsuit, filed by Tampa attorney Ethan Loeb on behalf of the the former employee and her daughter, unveiled details of the sexual harassment allegations made against Gudes last August.
The suit claims Gudes harmed the plaintiffs in several ways and seeks $30,000 in damages.
The abuse outlined in the lawsuit goes all the way back to May 2019, when the plaintiff began working for Gudes. Documents said it started with Gudes telling the plaintiff “we work 24/7,” while not holding himself to that same standard. The plaintiff also alleges he left her with a “bulk of the workload that Mr. Gudes was elected by the District 5 voters to perform.”
Documents state at times, Gudes would try to get the former employee to do ethically and legally questionable things under the threat of punishment if she didn’t.
The suit also alleges Gudes would make vulgar comments and refuse to meet with community leaders that were “not providing sexual favors to him.” That language also allegedly extended to Gudes’ colleagues and superiors, referring to other council members by vulgar names and frequently using anti-Semitic language, the documents state.
Whenever the plaintiff would point out the inappropriate behavior, the suit alleges Gudes would tell the former employee she was “too sensitive.”
The lawsuit claims the abuse eventually extended to the former employee, who alleges Gudes would call her “b****” and “Celie,” a character from the book “The Color Purple” who is described as a “a mostly uneducated black woman living in Georgia” who was mentally and sexually abused “at the hands of men in positions of power and authority over her.”
The lawsuit states, “Mr. Gudes was a misogynist who engaged in sexually suggestive behavior towards and about women, and even minor children.”
Attorneys state in the lawsuit that the plaintiff would bring her teenage daughter into work at times as to not leave her alone while she worked.
The suit details one incident that happened in June 2019 when the former employee and her daughter were at a community event with Gudes. According to the lawsuit, Gudes made comments about the daughter’s breasts. The daughter was 13 at the time, the suit states. The lawsuit alleges those comments made the teen “profoundly uncomfortable and left a mental scar.”
The lawsuit also describes alleged harassment toward a 19-year-old intern hired in the summer of 2019. The suit claims Gudes made sexually-charged comments to the girl. According to the documents, the intern’s parents said their daughter “was not to be left alone with Mr. Gudes, and that the intern’s father was prepared to come to City Hall and confront Mr. Gudes for his disgusting behavior.”
The former employee first reported an incident with Gudes to a legislative aide for another councilman in June 2020, according to attorneys. The lawsuit states the alleged encounter happened when Gudes drove to the employee’s home to pick up work-related papers. According to the suit, Gudes leaned out his car window, sniffed toward the woman’s private area and made an inappropriate comment.
The lawsuit claims Gudes later shrugged off the incident as the plaintiff being too sensitive.
According to the documents released Monday, another councilman escalated the “sniffing” incident. The plaintiff eventually dropped her formal complaint but asked to be transferred to a new job after that, according to documents. That request was denied by Gudes, the suit added.
The lawsuit claims Gudes’ alleged abuse then became worse. The documents detail comments allegedly made by the councilman telling the plaintiff she needed liposuction and dressed too professionally. At this point, the plaintiff claims she sought treatment from licensed mental health professionals and then reached out to the City Council’s attorney Marty Shelby for help. The suit claims Shelby “turned a blind-eye” and responded “I don’t want to get involved in that.”
After several more incidents of alleged abuse, the plaintiff renewed her complaint and got transferred to a new department in Aug. 2021. The transfer resulted in a pay cut of $28,000, according to documents.
Once an investigation was started, the lawsuit claims Gudes first did not cooperate and then started lying about different incidents. According to the suit, Gudes eventually went to the media to get out in front of the story, claiming the plaintiff “made a false claim and being an inadequate aide.”
Gudes stepped down as chair of the City Council in March after an investigator found claims made against him to be “credible and corroborated.”
“Everybody has their day to be vindicated,” Gudes said at the March 31 meeting. “I’m waiting for that day, that day will happen.”