In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: Pizzi says chat about coke bust is just ‘over the top’ bar talk

Dear editors and ex-girlfriends. Not necessarily in that order.

Just feel the need to clear up a slight misunderstanding about that stash of cocaine some sneaking varmint might have stashed under your front seat before tipping off the cops.

It wasn’t me. No matter what Mike Pizzi says.

Pizzi, the ex-mayor of Miami Lakes, suspended from office in August after he was rung up on federal kickback charges, has taken exception to a Herald story about another investigation into suspicious doings.

Pizzi was not charged, but Miami-Dade police have given the feds a 2010 audio and transcript of a secretly recorded conversation between Pizzi and a former police officer about what he needed done about a nettlesome member of the Miami Lakes town council.

One the recording, Pizzi comes off like someone who just binged on all 13 episodes, season two, of The Sopranos in one sitting. “I don’t care what you have to do, Tom. Rig the f------ brakes in his car. F------ take him out. I don’t want to see him anymore. I don’t want to see him anymore.”

Mike’s voice, recorded outside Shula’s Steakhouse in Miami Lakes, is loud. He sounds agitated. His Brooklyn accent doesn’t help.

He has now taken exception to the Herald story about the 2010 investigation that came to naught (Though it’s hard to imagine a newspaper ignoring the release of unseemly undercover recordings of a local elected official.). He emailed reporters Jay Weaver, David Ovalle and Charles Rabin Sunday, suggesting that we Herald sorts indulge in similar “over the top bar talk.”

Pizzi said that our story on the investigation “was a cheap shot. I would love to have a tape recording of every Herald reporter at Mike’s or Tobacco Road after three drinks discussing their editors or ex-girlfriends, being egged on by colleagues. Then, I’d like to put a verbatim transcript on the front page of the paper.”

Well, no. I’ve been around the Herald longer than most, logging considerable time at various bars with fellow journalists discussing the virtues of beloved editors and swapping heartwarming remembrances of ex-girlfriends. Not even after three drinks have I or one of my colleagues suggested getting rid of one or the other by setting up a patsy cocaine bust. I mean, I’m particular about editors messing with my leads and all, but . . .

Besides, Pizzi was recorded offering something to that wired-up ex-cop that could not possibly have come from the mouth of a Herald journalist. “A hundred thousand in cash.”

He reiterated, “You have my word. If he’s off the council, a $100,000 in cash. That simple.”

The best I could offer. “A hundred dollars. Fifty in cash on payday. I’ll give you my dog Jasper as collateral for the other fifty. That simple.”

Pizzi was talking to Tom McGrath, who at the time was chairman of the Lake’s planning and zoning board. McGrath was also an ex-cop, who had told Miami-Dade police that Pizzi, angry with councilman Richard Pulido, had talked about fixing the problem by planting cocaine in Pulido’s car. The cops wired McGrath. The recording took place outside Shula’s Steakhouse in Miami Lakes.

The Miami-Dade police subsequently dropped the investigation. Detectives, in their report, said Pizzi had become antsy about talking to McGrath. But the recording was turned over to the feds, who had busted Pizzi in August on charges that he extorted $6,000 in kickbacks from FBI undercover agents to set up a grant writing business in Miami Lakes and Medley, where Pizzi was employed as city attorney. He’ll be arraigned in U.S. District Court on Friday.

Pizzi has railed since his arrest that the Herald and other media have ignored his accomplishments as Miami Lakes mayor (“Where are the stories about me being a great mayor and all the things I did and my fights against corruption and the rock miners and holding the line on the [Urban Development Boundary], and the recall efforts with what little money I had?”). Instead, he said, we’ve wallowed in the federal charges and now this other stuff. At first he claimed the Godfatheresque conversation was “meaningless, over the top, silly, ridiculous drinking talk.” Later, Pizzi said he was only humoring McGrath’s “Oliver Stone conspiracy lunacies.”

If so, Pizzi’s humoring tactics were not particularly subtle. “I don’t give a f---, Tom, Just do it, Tom. Just f------- do it, Tom.”

One other thing about Pizzi’s emailed protest to the Herald reporters that separates his world view from ours. He complained, “By the time you guys are finished, after I get acquitted, I’ll have to move to France.”

I’ve checked my Herald pension. By the time, I’m finished, while poor Pizzi’s languishing in St. Tropez, I might make to Paris, Texas, or maybe Versailles, Ky. Unless some editor messes with my f------ brakes.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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