The last time Joe Carollo sat on Miami's city commission, the police chief accused him of — no joke — trying to obtain an illegal concealed-weapons permit for a visiting sheikh tied to the Saudi royal family; telling the police he was being stalked and calling them into "secret" meetings that he would then refuse to show up for; accusing city officials of spying on him; repeatedly meddling in internal police matters; and, in the words of then-Chief Kenneth Harms, trying to "manipulate the system for his personal advantage and denigrate those career appointees who have the ethical fortitude to resist."
Now, after a decades-long hiatus, Carollo wants that same job once more.
Miami — crazy, neon-hazed, bullet-ridden, coked-out-disco-glow Miami — has never had a politician quite as insane as ex-Mayor Joe Carollo. He is Miami's Richard Nixon, its Donald Trump, its lunatic Caligula. Carollo would be a tragicomic figure if he weren't so damn sinister: As New Times noted last week, then-Mayor Carollo was arrested in 2001 for beating up his wife and leaving "golf-ball-sized" welts on her head as his children watched in horror.
Tomorrow, Miami voters will decide whether to elect Carollo to the commission once more. They unquestionably should not but almost certainly will. Carollo is running in District 3, which includes Little Havana and portions of Coconut Grove. His opponent, Alfonso "Alfie" Leon is, importantly, not Joe Carollo. Barring a miracle, though, Leon will lose.
How insane was Carollo's first run on the city commission? In the 1980s, when he served as vice mayor, he sparred with Chief Harms in a series of memos so outlandish they have arguably never been topped in terms of readability and entertainment value. (The memos were previously disclosed in New Times and Miami Herald reports when Carollo was mayor.)
"Commissioner Carollo has attempted to manipulate and pressure me into actions which would benefit him personally," Harms wrote in one memo. In another, he accused Carollo of trying to use his political sway to get a friend's traffic ticket dismissed.
Carollo did not answer a phone call to his office today but previously told New Times that "none of this is true." He accused Harms of retaliating after Carollo allegedly caught the chief conducting some sort of "illegal investigation."
At the time, Miami was in peak cocaine-crisis mode, and Harms had been a public servant for more than two decades.
And in a memo dated June 22, 1982, Harms wrote he'd never encountered a public official as crazy, conspiratorial, and transparently corrupt as Carollo.
At the time, Carollo had been personally involved in
But Carollo apparently had a soft spot for the
At a May 2 meeting that year, Harms also said the
"Barring any of the legal considerations, I am appalled that the Vice-Mayor of Miami would be willing to subject this community to immeasurable embarrassment and ridicule in order to fulfill a personal obligation," Harms wrote. "As the Chief of Police and as one who has served this City for twenty-three years, I am thankful and encouraged that this did not occur."
Harms also wrote that Carollo once demanded that three cops with whom he was friendly
Most notable, Harms said Carollo had a world-class paranoiac streak, something he would later display in full force as mayor. In the early 1980s, Harms wrote that Carollo regularly accused city officials and various enemies of "spying" on him.
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Harms' story here deserves to be rehashed in
Commissioner Carollo has brought to my attention his fears for his personal safety. As a law enforcement officer, I understand my obligation to be sensitive to such concerns; especially when expressed by elected officials with high public profiles. I have dispatched investigators to both his office and residence. Though claiming urgent circumstances and "special information," his insistence on "clandestine" meetings with my investigators, times of which he has even failed to show up or return calls, has become an embarrassing and dramatic charade to which city resources have been wastefully dedicated.
Wrapping up the letter, Harms admitted his department had problems, but he claimed they were nothing compared to what Carollo was doing at the commission level.
The chief said he felt "duty-bound" to express his "concerns that the private, personal, and emotional interests of an elected official are eroding the integrity of this agency."