Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi beat the rap at his federal bribery trial, but inevitably it was going to be a political liability as he pursued a third term in November.
Tens of thousands of mailers portraying Pizzi as corrupt and untrustworthy have been sent to the town’s voters in English and Spanish over the past two weeks.
“It’s political pornography,” Pizzi complained to the Miami Herald. “It’s disgusting. It’s repulsive.”
It’s the handiwork of a Republican consultant based in Jensen Beach — financed by a political action committee called Leadership for Florida’s Future, with nearly $500,000 in donations from unidentified contributors. The PAC’s chairman, Michael Millner, has mounted similar campaigns against other politicians, from Tampa to Lakeland to West Palm Beach, according to published reports. Millner did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
One of the PAC’s mailers attacking Pizzi says he was charged with taking bribes, then “sticking” Miami Lakes taxpayers with $2.51 million in legal bills.
Pizzi, 53, was acquitted in August 2014 of accepting cash bribes in an FBI sting operation. But he was forced to sue GOP Gov. Rick Scott after he refused to lift his suspension, normally a formality when a politician is cleared of a crime.
After he prevailed against the governor, Pizzi then had to sue his own town of Miami Lakes to gain reinstatement the following April. The town council agreed to pay his lawyers $460,000 for the cost of that dispute.
But Pizzi’s attorneys are still seeking $2.25 million for his criminal defense. Settlement negotiations with the town’s insurer are under way.
Pizzi, an attorney, faces two challengers in the Nov. 8 election: Wayne Slaton, 64, an electrician who served two terms as mayor after the town’s incorporation in 2000, and incumbent Councilman Manny Cid, 33, a commercial property manager and former legislative aide who was raised in Miami Lakes.