Tampa City Council Chair Orlando Gudes might not have used his service weapon to shoot anyone during a 26-year career with the Tampa Police Department (TPD).
But a child did.
On July 21, 1994 — about four years into his career — Gudes was wrapping up practice with the Police Athletic League football team he coached. Gudes was to give a 15-year-old player and the player’s young sister a ride home. While loading equipment into the trunk, Gudes took out a box containing a black pouch and radio. Gudes’ weapon was in the pouch. The two children knew it was there.
Gudes sat in the front with the sister next to him. The player sat in the back. The pouch rested in the front next to Gudes under a pile of books. Another coach called for Gudes, and he got out of the car. The player reached for the pouch to feel the gun. When he picked up the pouch, he accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting his sister in the leg.
Florida Politics Wednesday received a copy of Gudes’ disciplinary record with TPD. The record lists about two dozen instances where Gudes’ conduct as a police officer was investigated. The record shows a pattern of negligence, misogyny, violence and struggles with telling the truth.
“It’s not normal to have a disciplinary record that extensive with those allegations on there. You’ll have a lot of missing court or speeding complaints, but you won’t see those,” Tampa Police Benevolent Association President Darla Portman said. “Based on my experience with the chiefs I’ve dealt with, I can see them easily firing him.”
One of those chiefs is the recently retired Brian Dugan. Since leaving TPD in September, Dugan has remained relatively quiet. Now, he says he won’t stop talking until Gudes goes.
“He’s an embarrassment as a former police officer and he’s an embarrassment as an elected official. He needs to move on,” Dugan said. “We’ve lost count of how many chances this man has had.”
Gudes has come under intense scrutiny this week following a city-initiated investigation that found he had 18 “credible and corroborated” instances of sexual harassment against a former legislative aide in his nearly three years on the City Council. The behavior displayed in his disciplinary record parallels the sexually aggressive and misogynistic attitudes that Gudes is accused of bringing to his roles in public service.
Gudes was suspended as an officer when it was found he lied about the details of an arrest. Gudes took a suspect into custody during a 1992 grand theft investigation. Gudes told a sergeant that it was a “boyfriend-girlfriend” dispute, and no handcuffs were used and no report taken. He then left to go to an off-duty job. But when the sergeant spoke with another officer, they found a suspect had not only been arrested, but property recovered. The other officers entrusted the paperwork with Gudes.
“It should be noted that officer Gudes admitted in his Internal Affairs interview that he just didn’t do his job,” an investigator wrote. “As to the other violation concerning untruthfulness, again officer Gudes admitted that he lied, but went on further to say that he did not lie intentionally. How someone can lie unintentionally is beyond me, especially since lying is an intentional act.”
And 30 years later, reports of his actions and contradictory statements read similarly. In a summary of the sexual harassment investigation, Thomas Gonzalez wrote:
“The Respondent (Gudes) ‘admits that some of the statements are true,’ but qualifies them as ‘unfortunately taken out of context.’ He describes the missing context only in one instance. He acknowledges that there are ‘ways he can improve on effectively communicating with and managing others,’ but does not describe any situation in which his management or communication skills affected his conduct in dealing with the Claimant. He writes that he has engaged an executive coach who will help him ‘further develop (his) own leadership skills and workplace sensitivity,’ but he does not admit to lacking sensitivity or creating a hostile environment because of that lack. To the contrary, he portrays himself as a champion of women appointed to City positions.”
The negligence issues weren’t exclusive to his rookie years. After more than a decade with the department, Gudes forgot to notify a mother that he knew her daughter was planning to run away because he “became preoccupied with other events” despite having seen the mother in person. The girl ran away the next day. According to an internal affairs report, Gudes then got into a screaming match with the mother over the phone. When the daughter’s clothing was found in a drainage ditch, he told the mother: “Yeah, there’s soiled, uh, bloody panties in there. Heaven knows what she’s doing.”
Gudes was then reprimanded for failing to secure the evidence. Even though the clothes and bloody underwear gave the impression of foul play, Gudes didn’t file the property. Instead, he kept the evidence at his desk for two weeks.
The sexualization of girls displayed in his police disciplinary record is echoed in the recent harassment investigation.
“The Claimant alleges that Respondent remarked to her daughter that she needed to stand up straight because she ‘had really big boobs and if (she) kept standing like that your boobs will be down to here,’” Gonzalez wrote.
The report also alleges Chair Gudes made comments about the family of former President Barack Obama.
“The intern reported that the Respondent (Gudes) made a comment about an Obama daughter’s ‘hot body’ and expressed the opinion that he ‘bet she (the Obama daughter) was wild,’” Gonzalez wrote.
But it also extended to adult women.
According to the investigation, Gudes was at a fundraiser in December 2019 and made a “big deal” about Mayor Jane Castor wearing a gown. The Mayor is a lesbian. She was in attendance with her partner. Gudes allegedly asked his aide, “I wonder who is going to be eating whose p***y tonight.”
“It’s despicable. It’s horrible,” Dugan said. “I have a 23-year-old daughter, I have a wife, and I have a son. Would you want your wife or daughter around someone like that? As a man, I have to step up and say that’s not acceptable.”
In several instances, Gudes is accused of getting into physical altercations with romantic partners. He’s accused of slapping a girlfriend in the face and throwing shoes at her during an argument. In another instance, he allegedly drove by a then-estranged wife and, seeing her with another man, shoved her in the chest and snatched her purse.
There are also some excessive force complaints, including one from a man who said Gudes struck him in the head with a flashlight. In many other instances, as with the harassment investigation, Gudes often defends himself by stating he can’t recall many or all details surrounding the accusations.
“Mr. Gudes admits to using his flashlight to defend himself from an attack by Mr. (name redacted) and several other females, but does not believe he struck anyone,” an incident report said.
And in the harassment investigation, Gonzalez said Gudes was “reported as answering most allegations with a statement that he ‘could not recall’ making the statement.”
Gudes was not charged in the domestic violence or flashlight investigations, but records show superior officers recommended he take anger management courses.
Dugan is far from the first person to call for Gudes’ resignation. Council members Joe Citro and Luis Viera said Tuesday he should step down, and Castor noted if he were a city employee, he would’ve been fired. Since he is an elected official, the city cannot discipline him.
“If he were a city employee, he would be fired over these credible and corroborated sexual harassment revelations,” Castor said. “I know from many years in law enforcement that it takes a great deal of courage for a victim to make harassment and hostile work environment allegations against any supervisor, let alone one as powerful as a City Council chairman.”