The Miami Beach Code Compliance officer who drives City Vehicle No. 1547 must really like his car.
In addition to getting him around the city to the places he has to go to, he doesn’t have to pay for its upkeep, nor for the gas that goes into it. It’s air-conditioned, to keep him well insulated from the atrocious tropical heat of a typical South Florida day.
It’s even comfortable enough to sleep in, apparently. Which he did. A lot. While supposedly on the clock, working for you.
On 14 separate occasions while he was in uniform, likely on the time clock, supposed to be working for the city and for the taxpayers who foot his paychecks, a Miami Beach Code Compliance officer was instead parked inside his city car in an out-of-the-way hiding spot, sometimes reading the paper but – more often – just dozing precious minutes and hours of the day away.
He probably thought his surreptitious siestas would never be found out. But they were – by, of all people, a SunPost reporter out on daily bike rides.
His afternoon naps – stretching over a four-month period between May and August of 2011 – were observed by the reporter, with the dates, times, and durations of each duly noted.
A few were even videotaped. Those videotapes are posted, and may be viewed in sequence and in their entirety, HERE.
In two of the videos, the city employee exits his vehicle to urinate among bushes and trees before returning to the air-conditioned comfort of his bedroom-on-wheels. His face, while not very clear, is briefly visible. His identity may yet become known.
This story and its revelations are sure to prove an unwelcome extra dollop of embarrassment to a city agency already tainted by wrongdoing and scandal. Five of its employees – including its lead administrator – have been arrested, indicted, and suspended without pay for allegedly shaking down the owner of Dolce Ultra Lounge, a South Beach nightclub, to the tune of thousands of dollars; this, in order to make code violations go away and ward off any potential future ones by the club.
Indeed, at the same time the FBI was conducting its now-famous surveillance of the five – plus 2 city fire inspectors – the code officer at the center of this story was cheating somebody other than a wealthy club owner:
He was cheating taxpayers for whom he should have been working. Rather than working, he was sleeping on the job, all while wearing a city uniform and, likely, on city time.
The FBI sting operation that eventually netted the employees’ arrests last month started June 9, 2011, after the club’s owner came to the feds, complaining of the extortion that was allegedly initiated by now-suspended lead code administrator Jose Alberto.
Almost two weeks before the club owner’s first encounter with Alberto – and three weeks before the FBI first started monitoring and recording Alberto’s subsequent meetings with the club’s owner to collect bribe pay-offs – the reporter, out on a bike ride, first noticed a Code Compliance vehicle parked behind trees and bushes in a secluded, wooded patch separating two feeder roads leading to and from the Julia Tuttle Causeway into Miami Beach.
The date was Monday, May 23, 2011. A white Ford Focus, marked with the words “CODE COMPLIANCE” and bearing identification number “1547,” was parked in the patch of green space, one that is not intended for vehicles. The car remained there, windows up, motor running, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. – an hour and a half.
The car was there again three days later, on Thursday, May 26. It was first noticed at 12:15 p.m. The car was still there two-and-a-half hours later when the reporter shot the first of a series of brief videos of the parked car, beginning at 2:50 p.m.
A close-up shot of the car, in one video, shows a sun shade stretched across the inside windshield area. A moment later – but not captured on video – a man was seen snoozing in the driver seat, reclined as far back as it could go. The windows were rolled up; the car’s motor was left running with the air conditioning on.
In another video just minutes later, the same man – who in a subsequent video days later can be better discerned as a bald or closely-cropped man, with facial hair – emerges from the car and walks over to a nearby spot to urinate. He is wearing dark pants and a dark shirt with the words CODE COMPLIANCE on the back. SEE VIDEO HERE
The video shows him returning to his car a minute later. According to notes taken at the scene, he drove the car forward less than ten feet, then parked again.
Notes show that he departed at 4:08 p.m. after having been in the park for nearly four hours total.
The next day, Friday, May 27 – the start of the four-day Memorial Day weekend, also known as Urban Beach Weekend, which drew overwhelming crowds of visitors and revelers to the city – the same car is back in the same spot. It was seen there at 11:45 a.m. The duration of time he was parked there is unknown.
The next day, Saturday, May 28, another series of videos is shot of the same car parked in the same spot. The first video is shot at 9:10 a.m.
At 9:52, the same man seen two days before is once more videotaped emerging from the Code Compliance car to urinate nearby. This time, he is wearing tan pants and a white shirt with CODE COMPLIANCE on the back. He is more clearly visible in this video – and is on-screen for more time – than in the other video.
He returns to his car and drives off. The time is 9:53 a.m.
In order to rule out any possibility that the city car may have been a take-home vehicle, and that the Code employee may have been on his way to work and merely stopped off for a nap before his shift began – thus, not on city time – the SunPost reporter searched the city parking lot just outside the Code Compliance offices at 555 17th St. at 5 a.m. one weekday of that week.
Among a score of Code Compliance vehicles parked in the lot was parked Vehicle 1547, confirming that, no, the car was not a take-home vehicle and therefore the man spotted parking it in the wooded area all those afternoons could only have had possession of it while on city time.
The car is spotted again in the secluded spot a week later, on Friday, June 3. It is seen parked there from 2:10 to 2:37 p.m. This is also the date which a complaint filed by federal prosecutors estimates is the date that the owner of Dolce was first approached by Jose Alberto.
The Ford Focus is again spotted in the same area on Tuesday, June 7 at 12:25 p.m. At 1 p.m., it is still there. At 2:02, according to notes, the driver exits the car to urinate, then returns to the car a minute later. He drives off at 2:10, nearly two hours from the time he was first noticed parked there.
The car is again spotted – same place – a week later, on Tuesday, June 14, at 12:10 p.m.
At 12:40, the man turned the car around the other way and parked, apparently because the sun’s position overhead had changed.
At 1:51, he was seen reading a newspaper, turning pages.
At 2:06, he finished reading, stashing the paper on top of the dashboard.
At 2:12, he moves the car again, gets out, then urinates.
At 2:13 – two hours from the time when he was first observed – he finally leaves.
The car is again spotted two afternoons later, on Thursday, June 16, from 2:00 to 2:05 p.m. It is unknown for how long it might have been parked there before it was spotted.
Again, the car is spotted parked there on Monday, June 27, from 12:20 to 2:10 p.m., a total duration of nearly two hours.
Three days later, on Thursday, June 30, the car is spotted a tenth time, from 11:15 a.m. to 1:05 p.m., a total duration of nearly two hours.
On Tuesday, July 5, the car is spotted at 1:05 p.m. It was gone between the time it was last seen – at 2:00 – and the time the area was again checked, at 2:15.
Almost two weeks later, on Monday, July 18, the car is again spotted, this time backing into the spot at 1:25 p.m. The duration of time it remained there is unknown.
Three days later, on Thursday, July 21, the same Code Compliance employee is spotted dozing in the driver seat. On this occasion, he is driving a different city car, a white Ford Focus marked “Code Compliance” and with the ID number “1593.” The car was first noticed there at 12:55 p.m., was still there at 1:35, and the driver was noticed sleeping in the driver seat at 2:20 p.m. The total duration of time he was parked there is unknown, but was at least an hour-and-a-half.
The 14th – and final – spotting of the Code Compliance car was on Wednesday, Aug. 17. This time, the car was the “1547” vehicle seen in previous spottings. It was seen parked in the wooded area from 12:15 to 2:25 p.m., a duration of at least two hours. As on past sightings, the windows were up, the motor was running, and a sun shade was stretched across the windshield, according to notes.
DO YOU KNOW HIM?
Can you help identify the Miami Beach Code Compliance employee seen in videos 4 and 6 posted on our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/thesunpost)?
Or do you have stories to share of your own encounters with city employees that you caught sleeping on the job?
If so, contact the SunPost at (305) 482-1785, or the editor (kim@sunpostweekly-dot-com), or the writer of this story (sobefla@gmail-dot-com).