He Took Naps in His City Car While He Was Supposed to Be Working For You… and You’re Still Paying Him
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.
Now we know his name.
We now know his identity.
Remember? The City of Miami Beach employee? The one spotlighted in a May 17 SunPost cover story about a city Code Compliance officer spied – and videotaped – snoozing in his city car on numerous occasions last year?
His identity has at last been determined and confirmed.
His name: Nick D’Amato, who, until last November, was a Code officer assigned to the city’s North Beach unit.
D’Amato was the city employee caught by a SunPost reporter on 14 separate occasions taking lengthy siestas inside his official city vehicle while parked in an out-of-the-way hiding spot amid trees and bushes, for hours on end – when he was ostensibly on the clock, supposed to be working for the taxpayers who foot his paychecks.
(The original story can be found here )
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.
D’Amato was even videotaped on two separate occasions emerging from his city car long enough to relieve himself beside a tree. Those videos – already viewed by hundreds of readers – were posted on the paper’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/thesunpost) and were integral in identifying him.
It can now be conclusively declared that the same uniformed Code officer seen getting out of his car and urinating in the woods in two of the posted videos is, indeed, D’Amato.
The SunPost asked for the public’s help in identifying the slumbering scofflaw, and you came through.
It was a reader who tipped the paper off to D’Amato. And not just any reader, but – are you ready for this? – one of D’Amato’s own former Code Compliance colleagues.
That’s right. You read that correctly. D’Amato was ID’ed thanks to another Code Compliance employee.
That informant’s tip was independently confirmed by Ivette Diaz, a city spokeswoman, who told the paper this week that “we can confirm that the vehicle with the identifying number 1547 that appears in several of the videos referenced in the story was assigned, during the time referenced in the story,” to D’Amato.
The two SunPost videos, she added, “show an individual that very much resembles Mr. D’Amato, and appear to be him.”
So will he now face punishment for wiling away many afternoon hours while on the clock, supposedly working for the public?
Not likely. You see, D’Amato no longer works for the city. According to another city spokeswoman, he retired on Nov. 1, 2011, thanks to his enrollment in Miami Beach city employees’ DROP program, a pension plan.
Which means that D’Amato, who cheated city taxpayers of his full, undivided time and attention while on the clock, has now received a monthly pension doled out to him by those same taxpayers. And he has likely escaped ever being prosecuted and punished for his snoozing ways.
Those snoozing ways? For a public employee, collecting pay for hours not actually worked is a prosecutable crime under state law.
A city spokeswoman confirmed that though he entered DROP on Nov. 1, 2011, D’Amato’s participation ended May 14, just three days before the SunPost’s cover story originally ran. D’Amato was unable to be reached for comment.
On the city’s web page explaining the DROP plan, a city employee is asked to consider a rhetorical question: “Will you want to leave the job in 3 years?”
“Some people are not ready to make this commitment,” the web page counsels. “Once you choose to enter the DROP program, you will not be able to work more than 3 years longer, so you should be mentally prepared to retire.”
D’Amato’s lackadaisical approach to working, as evidenced by his extended lunch breaks and naps, suggests his frame of mind was already quite oriented toward his approaching retirement – one, apparently, of leisure and relaxation.
He already has a leg up on the leisure part: He plays bass guitar in a local band called Cone of Silence, comprised of several City of Miami Beach employees, some whose names would be recognizable to the public. Its other members include economic development director Kevin Crowder, planning department acting director Richard Lorber, parks and recreation director Kevin Smith, capital improvement projects director Fernando Vazquez, and custodial services employee Nate Frazier. Crowder doubles as the band’s booking agent, according the group’s Facebook page.
“The hottest band to hit Miami since Jim Morrison and The Doors!” the band bills itself on the social networking site.
D’Amato’s face, more clear and easily discernible in the band’s photos of itself performing than in the videos of him urinating in the woods, appears in several pictures posted online.
What is “DROP”?
DROP stands for Deferred Retirement Option Plan. When a city employee enters the DROP program, he ceases to accumulate length of service years toward his pension. He has actually “retired” and begun drawing his pension.
An employee continues to work and be paid a salary and overtime, but is also paid a monthly pension that is set aside in a separate account, known as a DROP account.
An employee can stay in the program for up to 3 years, but then must officially retire from city service.
Payments from an employees’ DROP account will not be issued to him until his city employment ends. Once he has done so, his DROP funds will be paid according to the payment options he selected. At that time, he will begin receiving his monthly pension, an amount calculated at the time he entered the program and which was previously deposited in his DROP account.
Sources: The City of Miami Beach website;
the city’s DROP brochure
HAVE YOU: spotted a municipal employee sleeping on the job or taking extended breaks? We want to know about it. Contact the SunPost with the details and the name of the city involved.