Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Two South Florida Mayors nailed by FBI in corruption sting ... by gimleteye

About the public corruption sting that netted Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and the Sweetwater Mayor yesterday ...

For years, I have been among the strong, public advocates for FBI involvement in targeting stings at South Florida politicians who trade pay-to-play with lobbyists and private businesses that dominate the political landscape, transforming democracy into a pale shadow.

Most political corruption in Miami-Dade involves zoning deals, and those are the hardest cases for the FBI to make because of the insular nature of transactions.

Pizzi isn't accused of a land deal/ zoning change fix. According to allegations in the federal criminal complaint, Pizzi fell for a sting operation around the administration of government grants. Compared to charges in the simultaneous bust of the mayor of Sweetwater, the mayor of Miami Lakes apparently went cheap.

The law doesn't differentiate: six thousand or a million, when you are caught, and if allegations stand the test of court, you pay the price.

I've known Michael Pizzi for many years. He has been a stalwart ally on issues like protecting the urban development boundary and neighbors of rock mines -- incurring the wrath of developers, rock miners and their elected proxies -- and he was a visible leader in the recall of the single county commissioner who dominated the political landscape governing environmental regulations and zoning related issues for years, Hialeah's discredited Natacha Seijas.

Make no mistake: I hope the FBI doubles-down in South Florida. Setting up stings is difficult work. Note the absence of the Miami Dade state attorney's office, over the years. The main corruption in Miami-Dade involves characters whose loyalty to the code of silence assures no daylight enters unless investigators are extraordinarily resourceful. The big dollars -- not the $6000 Pizzi is charged with taking from the sting -- involve land use decisions and wealthy investors who are protected by layers of allegiances and history.

It's a club, the kind that involves public transactions that create vast wealth from exploiting open space, farmland and wetlands. Who knows the cash that traded under the table between lobbyists and politicians in order to secure favorable zoning votes from corrupt politicians? Millions and millions over the years. It is relevant. Michael Pizzi was never part of that gang. According to the criminal complaint, he apparently was hooked at the marginal edge of government business.

Whether it is just a matter of character or of a perverse survival-of-the-fittest in public life, where fittest is defined as what is worst for the public interest, these arrests ought to draw attention to a deeply flawed campaign finance system where monied interests know, rules are easily broken. I am sure that today a hushed silence prevails in County Hall until a game plan is devised to declare appropriate outrage. Mostly I am saddened.


Anonymous said...

I think a lot of us agree with what you wrote. I have always believe the BCC is the biggest problem, even when they change players, it's the system. The lobbyists, their clients and the money are too temping and so layered as well.

It's too bad we have a neutered state attorney who turns a blind eye on their doings. Dismantling of the public corruption unit is just par for the course for her. She cannot piss off her friends on the County dais by stepping on their toes.

What AB fraud? What Rivera? The statute of limitation? Really? No one in the office was watching that clock?

I hope the Feds have someone on the inside of the BCC and their zoning machine. Also, I'd be looking in to the airport/seaport contracts - all of them.

Pizzi screwed up. Everyone can paint it however they want. He say's things then does another. Problem one was begging for campaign contributions. If this turns out to be the only crime here, there's about 100 electeds serving throughout Miami Dade who should be in handcuffs as soon as possible!

Anonymous said...

True, but they weren't caught on tape.

Joy Towles Ezell said...

Richard Candela and Jorge L Forte, you probably know by now.....

Anonymous said...

I have worked closely with Pizzi on many projects. I have known him to be a man of the people, honest. If this pans out to be true, I am deeply saddened. He had many powerful enemies and I hope this mess is simply payback. Good luck Michael.

Anonymous said...

How did Joe Martinez's free house built by the LBA escape scrutiny? What about the mysterious good fortune of U.S. Construction on airport contracts after they hired aviation committee chair Pepe Diaz as a director?

The charges against Pizzi are an absolute joke. I smell a rat and his name is Burgess.

Anonymous said...

The fact is, law enforcement doesn't spend the time and manpower on a sting unless they are going after someone who is suspected of wrongdoing through a pattern of behavior. Obviously, the FBI got wind that these individuals were up to some bad stuff, so they created a sting operation that would catch them in the act.