Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz sought to draw a line between his government role and a recent drunk-driving arrest, taking time from a brief public apology Tuesday to state his "personal legal situation" has "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 Key West police said he raced his Harley-Davidson at twice the speed limit on South Roosevelt Boulevard and then failed field sobriety tests.
The four-term commissioner spent the night in jail on a DUI charge and on Monday his lawyer entered a plea of not guilty before Monroe County Judge Wayne Miller 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 with him.
Diaz later called Ramsay to apologize for using his name during the stop, spokespeople for both men confirmed this week.
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.
The Key West arrest was captured by both police body cameras and 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 item on pursuing the equipment is 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."