By Luke Thomas
July 11, 2012
Defense counsel for suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi today filed a formal request with the San Francisco Ethics Commission requesting the quasi-judicial body to issue subpoenas to four witnesses in connection with allegations of perjury by Mayor Ed Lee.
The allegations of mayoral perjury have taken center stage in the case, overshadowing the official misconduct charges filed by the mayor following Mirkarimi’s plea in March to one count of misdemeanor false imprisonment stemming from a heated argument between Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, on December 31 that resulted in a bruise on Lopez’s right arm.
“If Mayor Lee lied under oath as to communications he had with Supervisor Olague, or Mayor Lee lied under oath about offering Sheriff Mirkarimi a job in exchange for his resignation, then the Mayor’s case is utterly without merit,” a legal brief filed by Mirkarimi co-counsel David Waggoner and Shepard Kopp states. “As the charging official in this case, the truthfulness of the Mayor’s testimony is of paramount importance.”
The Ethics Commission, which has the power to subpoena witnesses, could deny the request but is unlikely to do so, Waggoner said, adding Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith is attempting to arrange an “off-the-record conference” between attorneys and Ethics Commission President Ben Hur.
Due to the seriousness of the multiple perjury allegations and the potential impact to the reliability of evidence, discussions about subpoenas must be held on-the-record and before the entire Ethics Commission, Waggoner said.
In his June 29 sworn testimony in response to pointed questions posed by Kopp, Lee said he did not speak to any members of the Board of Supervisors prior to suspending the sheriff, nor did he offer Mirkarimi a job, via an intermediary, in exchange for his resignation.
Both denials are being publicly challenged. Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker claims Lee-appointed District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague told Walker the mayor sought Olague’s opinion in March about what the mayor should do about Mirkarimi prior to suspending him, and former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who called for Mirkarimi to resign, claims he was contacted by Walter Wong, a politically connected developer and permit expediter with strong ties to Lee, to negotiate Mirkarimi’s resignation on behalf of the mayor in exchange for a City or private-sector job. Mirkarimi reportedly rejected the offers.
Any discussions between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors – the eleven-member legislative body that will ultimately decide if Mirkarimi will keep his job – would be tantamount to “jury tampering,” Waggoner said.
Olague subsequently denied she had any conversations with either the mayor or Walker about the Mirkarimi case, but has said she may have to recuse herself from voting on the matter.
Walker, Olague, Peskin and Wong are the four witnesses Mirkarimi’s defense counsel wants the Ethics Commission to subpoena and testify under penalty of perjury.
If the allegations are proved true, the mayor would have himself committed official misconduct in an official misconduct case, torpedoed an opportunity to remove a political rival from office, and subjected himself to possible criminal charges.
Within an hour of the subpoena request filing, the mayor released a statement calling the allegations of perjury against him “reckless” and “outrageous,” stating his testimony was “entirely truthful and based solely on facts.”
“Enough is enough,” the mayor said. “The time has come for Ross Mirkarimi to begin dealing with the facts. The facts are that Ross Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to an act of domestic violence against his wife and he will be on probation for the next three years. His conviction and his probation impair his ability to perform the duties of Sheriff, fall below the standard expected of public officials and constitutes official misconduct.”
The Ethics Commission is set to resume its deliberations July 18 when the request for subpoenas is expected to take precedence over scheduled testimony from Lopez.