Three years before he was arrested on federal corruption charges, Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi met a political ally in the parking lot of Shulas Steak House.
The topic of conversation: getting rid of Pizzis nemesis on the town council.
What Pizzi did not know was that his ally, Tom McGrath, wore a bug and was secretly working with Miami-Dade County detectives.
The men spoke about planting cocaine on then-Councilman Richard Pulido, a plot intended to get the man arrested. Pizzi, spewing F-bombs, said he was open to other schemes, promising $100,000 in cash to get Pulido off the council.
I dont care what you do. Rig the f------- brakes on his car. F------ take him out. I dont want to see him anymore, said Pizzi in the July 30, 2010, undercover recording obtained by the Miami Herald through a public records request.
In a series of meetings over the next month, however, Pizzi never expanded upon the threats toward Pulido. He soon told McGrath, a retired Hialeah cop who at the time chaired the towns planning and zoning board, Forget about him; he will self-destruct himself. Not long after, police suspended the investigation without charging anybody with anything, officially closing it earlier this year.
NEVER A REAL HIT
Pizzi, in a statement on Friday, said he categorically denied intending personal or political harm to Richard Pulido or anyone else, saying he had a bit too much to drink that evening and was goaded by McGrath into meaningless, over the top, silly, ridiculous drinking talk. He amended his statement Saturday, saying he was actually humoring McGrath, a man who he said engaged in Oliver Stone conspiracy lunacies.
Pizzis attorneys also dismissed the probe as a non-story that they say never should have been made public, noting that detectives quickly found there wasnt evidence to support allegations that the now-suspended Miami Lakes mayor would harm Pulido.
They called McGrath an unreliable informant who targeted Pizzi at Shulas after an evening of drinking though McGrath told detectives that Pizzi had only two beers. They also argued that McGraths recording doesnt show sinister intent but simply a passionate, drunken politician venting about an opponent.
This was never a real hit investigation, said attorney Ben Kuehne, who is representing Pizzi with attorney Ed Shohat. And therein lies the problem with the story, said Shohat.
Pizzi, 51, who was arrested in August, faces arraignment Friday on federal corruption charges accusing him of extorting $6,000 in kickbacks from FBI undercover agents purporting to operate a grant business that could deliver government money to Miami Lakes and Medley, where he worked as the town attorney. His defense lawyers said they will enter a not guilty plea on his behalf at the arraignment.
The series of Miami-Dade investigative reports and covert audio recordings have been turned over to federal law enforcement authorities. At the very least, they arent likely to help the mayors defense in fighting the federal charges.
Pulido, the target of Pizzis venting, said the undercover tape revealed a dark side the public didnt see but political opponents often felt.
Unfortunately, Pulido said, this is yet another despicable example of Mr. Pizzis tyranny and bully tactics.