Leaving present sparks police anti-corruption probe

It seems that if you want to give the mayor of a US city a headache, the best way to go about is to give him a bicycle, with the former Mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz, investigated by a dedicated police anti-corruption unit after being given a $321 Sun Bicycles Drifter bike by his staff to mark his departure from office.

Last month, we reported how Washington DC mayor Adrian M Fenty had apparently fallen foul of rules regarding gifts to public officials after being given a $12,000 Colnago EPS – presented by Ernesto Colnago himself – as thanks for his efforts in bringing the opening of the 2012 Giro d’Italia to the city.

While the bicycle given to Diaz last November may have a rather more modest price tag, it attracted the attention of a newly-constituted police task force which launched an investigation to ascertain whether public property had been stolen.

In fact, the bike had been purchased using a personal credit card by Javier Fernandez, Diaz’s former chief of staff, from Biscayne Boulevard's Skate Scoop & Bike Co, and the Miami Herald says that it has seen the receipts to prove it.

The newspaper said that Fernandez subsequently passed the hat round colleagues for them to donate towards the gift, saying “I pretty much broke even.”

According to current Mayor – and political opponent of Diaz - Tomás Regalado, the case is “closed.” He denied that the investigation was politically motivated, and said that someone had informed the police when inventory of Diaz’s office was taken after his departure from office that the bicycle was missing – “so they looked into it.”

However, Sargeant Andrew Boan of the Miami public corruption police, talking to the newspaper last Friday, said the file hasn’t quite been archived because “we still have one person left to interview.'' 

The police probe has raised eyebrows among Diaz's supporters and the wider public, however, especially given the perceived diversion of police resources to investigate a case concerning a $321 bicycle at a time when the city is enduring a budget crisis.

Kathryn Moore, former co-ordinator of Miami Bike Days who is now executive director at the Southern Florida Bike Coalition, said: ``He [Boan] was calling me because someone was investigating a report that the mayor may have taken things from his office.'' She added questioningly, “they have an officer working on this who has to go through files?''

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.