By Luke Thomas
July 1, 2012
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s official misconduct case against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was thrown into a tailspin Friday when the mayor allegedly perjured himself during an Ethics Commission probe into whether the democratically elected sheriff is guilty of official misconduct.
Perjury is considered a serious offense as it can be used to usurp judicial power resulting in miscarriages of justice. If the allegation is true, the mayor would himself have committed official misconduct in an official misconduct case and torpedoed an opportunity to remove a political rival from office.
The allegation of perjury was leveled following an abrupt suspension of the hearing due to an unsubstantiated bomb threat when minutes earlier the mayor denied under oath that he had spoken with any members of the Board of Supervisors – the eleven-member body that will ultimately decide if Mirkarimi will keep his job – about whether the mayor should file charges of official misconduct against Mirkarimi following Mirkarimi’s plea to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment stemming from a heated argument with his wife, Eliana Lopez, on December 31 that resulted in a bruise on Lopez’s right arm.
“Mayor Lee, before you decided to file written charges of misconduct here, did you talk to any Board of Supervisors about whether or not you should do so?” Mirkarimi defense counsel Shepard Kopp asked Lee.
“I did not,” Lee responded.
But according Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker, an ally of Mirkarimi and friend of Lee-appointed District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, Lee sought Olague’s opinion in March as to what she thought he should do about Mirkarimi before moving to suspend him.
“When the mayor said he hasn’t spoken to any supervisors, I know that to be not the fact,” Walker said following Lee’s testimony during the two-hour recess. “I was told by Christina Olague that she was meeting with the mayor about things and he had asked her specifically whether or not he should remove Mirkarimi from office and at the time Christina told me she had opined that he should ask for his resignation and if Mirkarimi didn’t resign he should just let it go.”
Walker had several conversations with Olague about Olague’s meeting with the mayor, both on the phone and in person, Walker said.
“So I was shocked when he said that because he’s our mayor and he was lying under oath,” Walker said. “Either that or I was misinformed as to him having a conversation with Christina.”
Walker said she had discussed the conversations she had with Olague with others including Dance Mission Theater co-founder Krissy Keefer.
“Christina told Debra and Debra told me two months ago that [the mayor] conferred with Christina about whether he should suspend Ross or not,” Keefer said.
Walker confirmed her availability to be called as a witness in the case and to testify under oath. Keefer could not be reached to confirm her availability.
Olague, who was confronted by several reporters asking her to respond to Walker’s claim, initially declined to comment, but relented saying, “I never talked to Debra Walker about this subject matter so – and we can’t talk about this subject matter because it is something that may be coming before the Board. So we have to be judge and jury on this and we’re not allowed to comment on it publicly.”
Asked why Walker would make such a claim if not true, Olague said, “I’m not sure why she would say this because we’re not allowed to discuss this matter with anyone before it comes to the Board. So it may be that I just have to be conflicted out if people are saying that I’ve had these types of conversations.”
“We’ve been advised by our attorneys that we can’t talk about this subject matter with anybody because it’s going to come before the Board.
“At this point I may just have to recuse myself from voting on this on the Board,” Olague added.
When Fog City Journal returned to the Ethics Commission hearing following the interview with Olague, Walker said she received a voice message from Olague.
“Debra, I never had that conversation. Thanks,” Olague said in her voice message to Walker.
Lee, after completing his testimony, declined to comment on the alleged conversation he had with Olague.
Asked what actions, if any, Mirkarimi’s defense counsel will pursue following the revelation of alleged perjury by the mayor, Kopp said, “We take the allegations of perjury very seriously and are currently evaluating the causes of action available to us.”
Possible causes of action include calling Olague to the witness stand to testify under oath and calling for a suspension of the Ethics Commission hearing until an external judicial body properly adjudicates the perjury allegation.