Tampa lawmaker files lawsuit against campaign manager, alleging sexual harassment

Jackie Toledo accused a well-known Republican strategist who formerly worked for Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida House.
Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo makes a point during a Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing in a legislative session, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee.
Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo makes a point during a Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing in a legislative session, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Oct. 25, 2022|Updated June 30

Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, is accusing her campaign manager, a well-known Republican communications strategist, of sexual harassment.

Related: Former Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo drops lawsuit against ex-campaign manager

Toledo’s campaign manager, Fred Piccolo, sent “unwanted, unsolicited, inappropriate, and grossly offensive” text messages to her, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County.

Toledo, who made an unsuccessful bid this year for Tampa Bay’s open 15th Congressional District, also accuses Piccolo of trying to get fired in order to earn a $100,000 termination payout. She is seeking at least $30,000 in damages.

Some of the messages referenced by Toledo are included in the lawsuit, including several photos she says are of Piccolo in various states of undress, though his face is not visible. Three appear to show Piccolo photographing himself shirtless in a bathroom mirror. Two others stop just short of depicting his genitals, with one showing an “erection” covered only by underwear, according to the complaint.

“Monday motivation … For every $10k u raise today you can pick any photo,” Piccolo sent along with a shirtless picture on May 23, according to screenshots provided in the lawsuit.

In another text, Piccolo mentioned his wife’s breast augmentation surgery before offering advice if Toledo were considering one, according to the screenshots. Shortly after, he sent a text stating that he sleeps naked.

When asked for a response to the allegations, Piccolo said in a text message that he’s known Toledo for more than a decade and “considered her a friend.”

Fred Piccolo
Fred Piccolo [ Twitter ]

“At all times our relationship was professional and we engaged in banter back-and-forth as most friends do on campaigns. At no time did she express any outrage or offense … On the contrary Jackie always encouraged me in my exercise journey for my health as she knew of my condition,” he said. Piccolo has Parkinson’s disease.

“At no time did I ask to be fired or thought I was fired,” he continued. “It is hurtful and unfortunate that Jackie would allege what she does rather than pay me what I’m owed.”

Piccolo is also a former spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican majority in the Florida House.

Toledo could not immediately be reached by text late Monday evening for comment.

The text messages included in the lawsuit also show Toledo and Piccolo arguing over the campaign manager’s commitment to Toledo’s race to win the Republican nomination for Congressional District 15. In August, as the primary drew nearer, Piccolo accepted a job as a communications consultant for DeSantis as the governor dealt with the fallout of his suspension of Hillsborough prosecutor Andrew Warren.

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Related: One day she's a Tampa judge, then she's state attorney in a political storm

“Doesn’t mean I’m leaving the campaign,” Piccolo texted Toledo on Aug. 5. “I can still do work for both.”

“I don’t even know what to say because I am 17 days out,” Toledo wrote, referencing the Aug. 23 primary, according to the lawsuit. “I can’t think of anything but.”

Less than a week later, the two got into another disagreement over the matter.

“You have no business calling one of my clients and asking about my contract,” Piccolo texted on Aug. 11, after Toledo apparently called the governor’s office.

“I want to know if there (is) a conflict of interest?” Toledo responded. “You have an active contract with me.”

Toledo would end up losing her primary to former Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

This is a breaking story that may be updated.