Last Tuesday may have started out like any other day for Miami Lakes Mayor and Medley Town Attorney Michael Pizzi but it certainly didn’t end that way.
By lunchtime, Pizzi found himself being escorted from Miami Lakes Town Hall in handcuffs, placed in the back of an FBI unmarked car and transported to the Broward County Federal Courthouse.
Pizzi, along with Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Moroño were charged with taking nearly $50,000 combined in bribes and kickbacks after applying for a fake grantwriting scheme that was actually an undercover FBI sting operation.
Moroño, Sweetwater’s mayor since 2002 allegedly has pocketed $40,000 while Pizzi, Miami Lakes’ mayor since 2008 and Medley’s full-time town attorney for the last 13 months, took $6,750.
Both Moroño and Pizzi bonded out of jail late Tuesday afternoon but had little to say to the crush of media cameras.
"No comment," said Pizzi. "There will be another day for that."
According to the feds, Pizzi first pushed the bribery and kickback scheme through Medley before moving the scheme to Miami Lakes.
“This is a sad day for South Florida,” said Wilfredo Ferrer, U.S. State Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Our democracy suffers in these cases when elected officials use their power and political influence for personal gain instead of the public good.”
"As an attorney and public official, Michael Pizzi is a man of integrity and today begins his fight for vindication," said Amanda Maxwell, Pizzi's attorney.
Both Morreño. and Pizzi will be arraigned in the Federal Courthouse on Tuesday, Aug. 27.
By the end of the day, Florida Governor Rick Scott had suspended both Moroño and Pizzi from their duties as mayor. What will happen to Pizzi in his role of Town Attorney for Medley was still unknown.
"In reference to the suspension of the Town Attorney, nothing has been decided or discussed yet," Medley Vice-Mayor Griselia Digiacomo said in an email response to the Gazette's inquiry. "At some point the Council will have to meet in a special council meeting to make that decision."
A special Medley Council meeting has been set for Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Medley council chambers with Pizzi's situation the likely subject.
More details including reaction from Medley officials will be in next week’s Gazette.