Miami Beach parking officer demanded $1,000 a month to ignore violations, police say

Martin Vassolo

A Miami Beach parking enforcement officer was arrested after police said he extorted a valet company for cash payments in exchange for not enforcing parking violations.

The owner of APS Parking LLC told police that Dante Zirio, a 57-year-old city employee, demanded $1,000 a month in exchange for not issuing parking citations to the company.

On Saturday, Zirio received a $750 payment from the valet owner, Freddy Diaz, in a conversation that was captured on video by Miami Beach police as part of a sting operation.

Following his arrest later the same day, police said Zirio told them he extorted Diaz and a second private business, the Mr. Jones nightclub at 320 Lincoln Rd. Zirio said he received $400 from the nightclub for not issuing parking citations to the club, police said.

He faces two counts each of extortion, bribery and accepting an unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, police said. The city’s internal affairs unit arrested Zirio after a covert video camera captured the exchange between Zirio and Diaz.

In an email to the mayor and commission, City Manager Jimmy Morales said arresting Zirio was “the right thing” and lamented his alleged actions.

“It is a sad day when a public official engages in such behavior, but it is good to know that internally we did the right thing to identify and arrest the perpetrator,” he wrote. “As always, we remain vigilant.”

A pre-disciplinary hearing to determine if Zirio will lose his job was scheduled to take place Monday, but a city spokeswoman said the hearing has been postponed to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday to allow Zirio requested union representation.

Zirio is a member of the Communication Workers of America (CWA). He is a participant in the City of Miami Beach Employees Retirement System but may lose his pension benefit if convicted of a criminal charge, according to Florida law.

The retirement system Board of Trustees will make a final determination of that matter after the criminal case has been concluded, the city spokeswoman said.

Zirio has been employed by the city for 20 years and receives an annual salary of $61,724.

He was released from jail Saturday after posting the required 10% of his $45,000 bond, said a spokesman for Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In a statement to the Miami Herald, Morales said the city believes Zirio acted alone. But he directed police to launch an internal investigation.

“We will not tolerate any act of bribery or public corruption in the City of Miami Beach,” he said.