Sergeant Up in Arms

The hiring of the mysterious Zohar Lahav at $52,000 per year has critics of Miami Mayor Joe Carollo yelling foul

The mayor of Atlanta receives "executive protection" from his police department. The mayor of Memphis, the first black politician to hold office in that racially divided town, employs a police bodyguard. Carollo says he was offered city police protection but declined for the sake of appearance. "I didn't want to take a police officer off the streets, so I hired [Lahav] out of my own mayoral budget instead of out of the police department budget," Carollo declares. (Schumacher was paid out of the police budget.) "I did that because if I didn't, then reporters like you would be asking me questions about it."

Lahav is not a sworn police officer, so he does not have police powers, as Schumacher did. That could impair his ability to fulfill his official duties, Schumacher states. "If there was an incident I could right then arrest them and ship them off to county jail," Schumacher explains. "This guy, he can't do anything. He has no authority. He'll have to call a policeman to take care of it."

Such criticism, Carollo alleges, stems from an improper focus on Lahav's job title. Instead of seeing him as the person responsible for maintaining order at the city commission meetings, or as a security specialist, see him as a valuable aide, Carollo pleads: "Sergeant at arms, administrative assistant. I could have called him whatever. I had a job vacancy to fill and I filled it with the best possible person available. That's all there is to it."

If there is anything more to it, Lahav is not saying. When reached by telephone two weeks ago, he declined to answer any questions about his job. "I'd really rather not talk until I get a chance to talk to Joe first," he said, reluctantly agreeing to an interview the next day at a scheduled city commission meeting. Uncharacteristically, Lahav didn't show up for the meeting until 11:00 a.m., hours after it started. "This is the first time he's ever not been here," said a perplexed Mike Shapiro, city hall's semi-retired security guard. When Lahav finally did show up, he retracted his decision to grant an interview, stating again that he would rather not talk.

Moments before, when he first walked into city hall, Shapiro told him that he had just missed a New Times photographer who had waited all morning for him to appear. Lahav's expression was one of relief, Shapiro reports. "Good," Lahav said with a smile.

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