Kenneth Moore, proprietor of Fort Lauderdale bar and bike shop Two&, owns a small business and needs the parking area in an alley adjacent to it to operate. "We don't allow any parking there, except deliveries or people working for us," he tells New Times. Furthermore, "not having customer parking at our bar keeps our liquor liability insurance exceptionally low."
So Moore — whom friends also know by his nickname, "Elmo Love" — was livid last night when he came across a white BMW in the spot, with several cards laid out on the dashboard in a neat line. The cards included an ID and business card from the State Attorney's Office, listing an Otto Sisbarro as a "witness coordinator" on staff. The business card had a cell-phone number handwritten on it. There was also a card for Jack Lokeinsky, president of the Fort Lauderdale Police union.
It's not unusual for law enforcement officers to use what they call "professional courtesy" — to let one another's violations go unreported or even cover for one another. In recent years, though, that informal policy has had major consequences. In Florida, after a female Highway Patrol officer, Donna "Jane" Watts, dared to arrest another officer who frequently speeded, she was later investigated for the matter and harassed by other officers. In Chicago, it's looking like cops covered for their fellow officer in the murder of an unarmed man, Laquan McDonald.
So Moore was livid at what he perceived as another abuse of power. He grabbed his cell phone and posted images to Facebook, writing, "This is incredibly offensive. This douchebag parks in a tow away zone and leaves these cards and ID to try and scare me? Get me to be nice? Call him on his cell and ask him nicely to move from a well-marked TOW AWAY ZONE? No. I would rather fucking DIE than be bullied like this. FUCK YOU. The tow truck is on the way."
But before the truck arrived, Sisbarro meandered up. Moore's video camera was rolling. He confronted Sisbarro, shouting, "What was the point of the cards? Was that to scare me?"
"No. I don't think you're very scareable."
"Why did you do that?"
"I always do that."
"Why do you use your status or your supposed friendships with government officials to try and scare people?" More shouted.
"I work there; I'm not a friend of theirs."
"Why do you think you're better than me?... Why would you park in a tow-away zone and put these cards out, expecting special treatment?"
It went on, with Sisbarro insisting, "I am not expecting special treatment."
"Anybody else gets towed," Moore declared. "Why do you think that you shouldn't get towed? Because you drive a BMW? Because you work for the state?"
Sisbarro said "Have a good holiday" and drove away.
Reached by phone today, Sisbarro was surprised to hear that the video was circulating on Facebook. He explained that last night was Christmas on Las Olas — a major event for Fort Lauderdale. Traffic was at a near standstill and parking scarce. Sisbarro says it had taken him 40 minutes just to get down that alley, and he knew the owners or former owners of the building, who once ran an antique shop there, so he thought it would be OK to park in the spot. "A very nice couple owned it. I knew them well. I did a lot of business at their shop."
So he was taken aback by what he felt was an ambush by Moore — a loud guy, with "no identification whatsoever. I thought he was abusive to me, as a matter of fact. He impressed me as a weirdo. He did not identify himself... You would think I shot the pope or something."
Sisbarro insists that if Moore had "approached me as a gentleman and said, 'Excuse me, can I speak to you?'" he would have offered to pay him for the hour he was parked. He said that he felt badgered and uncomfortable and that the confrontation left him feeling shaken up on the drive home. "We're living in crazy times. Was I going to confront this person?"
Sisbarro acknowledged that "professional courtesy" can be abused, but he insists "this was not that." Still, he struggled to explain why he leaves his and Lokeinsky's cards on the dashboard. But he swears he wasn't trying to abuse any power. "I have a lowly, lowly, lowly job in the State Attorney's Office... I don't have any power to abuse!"
State Attorney Mike Satz, reached by phone, said that the job of witness coordinator is indeed a low-level one, "like a secretary." He said no one should leave cards out with an expectation of special treatment.
Then he contacted his human resources department's Renata Annati, who told New Times, "I can verify that Otto Sisbarro left our office February 28, 2011. He did work for us for about three years, but he is most definitely not employed with and not associated with this office." She believed his departure was a resignation.
Only after all of that, in a second phone call, did Sisbarro say, "I'm semi-retired" before begging off the phone. His Facebook page says he's a self-employed interior designer. The Broward County clerk's office shows he has two traffic infractions in the county.
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A message was left for Lokeinsky at his office.
And there you have it.
The moral of the story is: If someone flashes around fancy-sounding IDs expecting privileges, ignore that nonsense. Then pull out your phone and press record.