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Quietly, business as usual

The faint sounds of mid-afternoon traffic drift upward to break the quiet of Sandy Freedman's office eight floors up the bunker-like Municipal Office Building downtown. The mayor doesn't seem to notice. She's sitting behind her blond-wood desk, perusing a stack of mail, returning a few phone calls.

"That's going to be real tough," she says to someone on the other end of the phone, "given the people involved. Lou explained to you what they're doing and how far-fetched that is."

She hangs up, returns to the quiet of the mail for a few minutes, takes a call from her lobbyist in Tallahassee, then she's back to the stack of paper. She dons a pair of narrow golden framed reading glasses the public never sees.

"Is it unusually quiet here this week?" she asks her secretary, Sonny Oppenheim, whose office is just a couple of paces away. Freedman's gaze remains fixed on some document.

"Yes," Oppenheim says through the open door, "usually you have two or three calls at a time."

It has been a busy day that began with an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting at a plush private club high above downtown and would end late into the night with a meeting at a church with a sometimes angry neighborhood group.

In between, Freedman, 49, would deliver two proclamations, meet with the police chief, dance on stage with a city employee and entertain some big-money businessmen.

Not once does her husband's arrest come up.

She doesn't want to talk about Black Friday, as some people around City Hall have called the day three weeks ago when lawyer Michael Freedman turned himself in on charges that he misled federal bank regulators.

The mayor refused to talk to reporters that day, avoiding City Hall for the comfort and security of her high-rise condominium on Bayshore Boulevard. She hasn't uttered a public word on the subject since then, and apparently doesn't plan to.

She's placed it behind the wall of privacy she has erected over the years to shield her family.

When a reporter spending the day with her tries to broach the subject, a hand goes up. I'm not talking about that, she says firmly.

After the media squall that enveloped her, calm has returned to the mayor's office. On the surface, at least, all seems well.