This weekend’s scuffle between Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and an antagonist was the second time in a week that police have had to jump into a fracas over a political ad controversy.
Earlier last week, five code enforcement employees, four on-duty police officers, three off-duty cops, and a host of onlookers gathered just outside City Hall over a dispute over whether a Fraternal Order of Police union vice president was inappropriately campaigning on public property.
The issue escalated to accusations of a code enforcement officer impersonating a cop and a cop threatening to have him arrested.
In the end, no one was arrested. But the actual details of the incident remain unclear, and internal affairs is investigating.
Last Tuesday afternoon, a white Ford pickup truck sporting a large sign for Michelle Niemeyer – one of Sarnoff’s opponents – pulled up to City Hall and stopped in a yellow-lined safety zone. Behind the wheel was Sgt. Javier Ortiz, the FOP vice president who has endorsed Niemeyer. Two other off-duty cops were with him.
The city elections coordinator asked Ortiz to move. But Ortiz, noting he was more than 100 feet away from the City Hall early voting site, as required by law, refused.
Ortiz says then code enforcement officer Hejbert Point-Du-Jour – identifying himself as a police officer – told Ortiz to move.
“Miami police move your vehicle or I will cite you,” Point-Du-Jour told Ortiz, according to a statement Ortiz later made to police.
When Ortiz refused again, he says the code enforcement officer returned with Sarnoff’s sergeant-at-arms. That’s when Ortiz indicated he would arrest Point-Du-Jour for impersonating a police officer – and called the cops.
Four officers arrived. So did the code enforcement director, his deputy, a supervisor and a code enforcement union rep. Sergio Guadix, the code enforcement director, said he had received a call that the pickup truck was illegally parked – technically an issue for police, not code enforcement. Guadix declined to comment.
According to a memo police Cmdr. Manuel A. Morales sent the next day to interim Chief Manuel Orosa, Point-Du-Jour “immediately denied having identified himself as a police officer.”
Now the issue is being looked at by internal affairs because it involves a dispute between two city employees.
Miami does not allow campaign signs on public property. But the rule has been ignored until this election, when yard signs were removed from City Hall grounds after a candidate complained.
City Attorney Julie Bru declined to comment on whether a sign on a pickup truck counts as being “on public property.”
Ortiz did not get a parking ticket.