Two weeks of turmoil and not-so-great publicity for the Town of Medley came to a conclusion last week.
On Aug. 21, the town council held a special meeting for the second straight week to figure out not only what to do about town attorney Michael Pizzi but also entertain presentations from prospective law firms with the idea of hiring someone on a temporary basis.
When the evening was over, both issues had been resolved.
Pizzi, in a deal negotiated by special Tallahassee labor attorney John Griffin, resigned from his $192,000 a year job, slightly less than two years after being named to the post. Pizzi, who agreed to a series of conditions in his resignation, was also mayor of Miami Lakes but was quickly suspended from that job and a special election in Miami Lakes will take place soon to find his replacement.
Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Moroño were arrested and charged on Aug. 6 with taking nearly $50,000 combined in bribes and kickbacks after applying for a fake grant-writing scheme that actually turned out to be an undercover FBI sting operation.
Griffin read a brief initial statement to the council announcing that Pizzi had resigned and then went over the terms and conditions of his resignation.
• Pizzi would resign immediately, no later than the close of business on Thursday, Aug. 22.
• Pizzi will execute a general release of claims unconditionally releasing the town, its officers, employees and agents.
• Pizzi will cooperate in the transition to a new town attorney if requested by the town.
• Pizzi will immediately return to the town any property belonging to the town in his possession or control.
• Pizzi will receive a lump sum payment of 20 weeks severance as permitted by his employment contract, or approximately $74,000.
• The town and Pizzi agreed to a mutual non-disparagement provision except that anybody required to testify on prior information as to law enforcement would be entitled to do so.
Pizzi called the Gazette late Monday afternoon and gave his first lengthy interview to any media outlet talking at length about his contributions to the town and his belief that he’ll be exonerated in the end.
“I had a pretty strong contract with the town, but I just felt that I’ve got a personal situation here that I need to resolve and I thought it was very important to put Medley ahead of my own personal interests,” Pizzi said. “I could have gone back to Medley the day after my arrest and started working but with what was happening, it would have been a huge distraction. I just thought by stepping down voluntarily ... I didn’t want to create a distraction for the people of Medley and I just felt until I get this situated, the focus was not going to be helping the town or people, it was going to be on my issue.
“When Medley has its meeting in September, I want the focus to be on the budget and helping the people, not on me and what I’m going through. Stepping down was in Medley’s best interest and the right thing to do.”
According to the feds, Pizzi first pushed the bribery and kickback scheme through Medley before eventually moving it to Miami Lakes. An arraignment for both Pizzi and Morroño was scheduled for this past Tuesday, Aug. 27.
“All I can tell you is that I think I’m going to be exonerated,” Pizzi said. “There’s no question in my mind. Everything I ever did was in the best interest of Medley and I hold my head up high. I did absolutely nothing wrong. I’m very proud of the work I did for the people of Medley. When I was there I received nothing but praise.”