Miami-Dade County

County commissioner: DUI arrest has ‘nothing to do’ with my position

Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz speaks during a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting on Aug. 1, 2015.
Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz speaks during a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting on Aug. 1, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz sought to draw a line between his government role and a recent DUI arrest, taking time from a brief public apology Tuesday to state his “personal legal situation” had “nothing to do with my elected position.”

Speaking at the start of the regular twice-a-month commission meeting, Diaz told fellow commissioners he was sorry for “any embarrassment my personal legal situation has caused.” He has yet to discuss his actions on the night of Sept. 19, when Keys police said he raced his Harley-Davidson motorcycle at twice the speed limit and then failed field sobriety tests. The four-term commissioner spent the night in jail on a DUI charge. On Monday his lawyer entered a plea of not guilty to the misdemeanor charge.

Diaz, 55, faces the risk of being removed from office by Gov. Rick Scott, who can suspend elected officials arrested on misdemeanors if the offense is related to an official duty. Diaz, an avid motorcycle rider, was participating in the annual Poker Run bike party in Key West and has said the outing wasn’t tied to his role as commissioner.

Shortly after being pulled over for going 74 mph in a 30-mph zone, Diaz introduced himself to officers “Commissioner Diaz from Miami-Dade County” and later noted Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay knew his name. Diaz did not have a driver’s license at the time. Diaz later called Ramsay to apologize for using his name during the stop, spokespeople for both men confirmed this week.

Body-camera footage from September shows Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz identifying himself as a commissioner shortly after being pulled over during a Key West traffic stop. Diaz was acquitted on May 4, 2016.

Diaz declined a breath-alcohol test, prompting an automatic one-year suspension of his driver’s license. But Diaz also secured a waiver, available to all first-time offenders, allowing him to drive for work and conduct everyday chores, such as grocery shopping and medical appointments.

Though he was free to drive to Tuesday’s meeting, Diaz’s wife drove him to County Hall, said Brian Andrews, a spokesman Diaz hired to handle media on the issue of the arrest. Andrews said he is not being paid out of Diaz’s commission budget.

The Key West arrest was captured by police body cameras as well as cameras attached to dashboards of the police vehicles. Diaz was one of two commissioners in June to vote against funding for Miami-Dade police to purchase body cameras, which are expected to be issued later this year. Miami-Dade squad cars also lack dashboard cameras, and an item on pursuing the equipment was on Tuesday’s agenda.

Diaz spoke only briefly Tuesday after being recognized by Commission Chairman Jean Monestime.

“Mr. Chairman, I wanted to take a moment to apologize to you and my colleagues for any embarrassment my personal legal situation has caused this great governing body of ours,” Diaz said. “This has nothing to do with my elected position. This is a personal matter that happened on my personal time. And I wanted to thank all of you for your support.”

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