Miami Lakes

Police: Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi crashes car into tree, briefly leaves scene

Michael Pizzi returns to Town Hall as Miami Lakes mayor on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.
Michael Pizzi returns to Town Hall as Miami Lakes mayor on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Miami Herald Staff

Combative Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, who beat a federal bribery rap and won a fight against the city to return to office, was bruised up in a battle with a tree Monday night, police said.

According to police, Pizzi drove his Kia into a tree, the airbag deployed, and the mayor left the scene before returning a short time later wearing a baseball cap and sporting a cut on his forehead.

Miami-Dade Police Lt. John Jenkins said Pizzi, who was the only person in the car, refused medical attention. Jenkins said Miami Lakes police, contracted by the city through the county, were already at the scene when Pizzi returned. The crash happened at Northwest 140th Street and 82nd Avenue, a residential enclave in Miami Lakes.

“He hit a tree. He didn’t go to the hospital. There was blood on the airbag,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said there was no need to give Pizzi an alcohol test. The mayor was very cooperative, he said, and “didn’t seem impaired.”

Pizzi told police he veered his 2014, four-door Kia into the tree after avoiding an animal that had run onto the road. The crash happened just before 9 p.m. Monday.

Pizzi didn’t answer his phone or return texts Tuesday morning.

The police incident report shows police were contacted at 8:36 p.m. and the scene was cleared at 2:02 a.m. Tuesday. Pizzi’s car was “flushed against a tree with heavy front end damage and no one inside.”

Traffic homicide was called because the driver was missing. Pizzi soon returned, according to the report.

“It was evident he was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash,” a police officer at the scene wrote.

Pizzi made a triumphant return to Miami Lakes in April after more than a two-year battle to clear his name. The two-term mayor was arrested by federal authorities in August 2013 who claimed he accepted $6,750 in illegal cash payments during several meetings — including one at a coffee shop and another at a pool hall — in exchange for lucrative federal grants.

But they were phony grants.

The feds, posing as Chicago businessmen, claimed that Pizzi accepted $750 in campaign donations, $1,000 at a Starbucks, and another $2,000 in a plastic bag with cigars at a Miami Lakes pool hall.

He won his court case in August 2014, but had to continue fighting to regain his seat because Gov. Rick Scott refused to revoke his suspension.

Finally, in December 2014, the state’s Supreme Court ordered Pizzi’s suspension revoked. The next day Scott gave in, and Miami Lakes and its Mayor Wayne Slaton — who had also been fighting Pizzi’s return — also relented.

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