By Luke Thomas
September 6, 2012
A chartered Democratic Party club in San Francisco is calling for a criminal investigation into allegations of felony perjury committed by Mayor Ed Lee during an Ethics Commission inquest into whether suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi committed official misconduct.
“We hereby request a formal investigation into the allegations that Mayor Ed Lee committed perjury in his Ethics Commission testimony regarding his removal of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office,” a statement released Wednesday by the 100-member Richmond District Democratic Club (RDDC) said. “Should the San Francisco District Attorney not pursue said investigation, we then request that an investigation be undertaken by a government agency other than the City and County of San Francisco.”
The allegations of mayoral perjury first surfaced June 29 when Lee testified under penalty of perjury that he did not speak with any members of the Board of Supervisors about the Mirkarimi case prior to filing charges of official misconduct against him, nor did he offer Mirkarimi, through an intermediary, alternative employment in return for his resignation.
Two witnesses refuted that testimony, casting doubt on the mayor’s credibility and raising questions about evidence reliability during a politically toned prosecution. Building Inspections Commissioner Debra Walker said Lee discussed what he should do about Mirkarimi with Lee-appointed District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague who told Walker about the conversation she had with the mayor. Separately, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who called for Mirkarimi to resign in March, said Walter Wong, a politically connected developer with strong ties to Lee, contacted him on behalf of the mayor to offer Mirkarimi a job in exchange for his resignation.
Perjury is considered a serious offense as it can be used to usurp judicial power resulting in miscarriages of justice.
Lee and Olague have denied they discussed the Mirkarimi case but Olague has said she may have to recuse herself when the matter comes before the Board of Supervisors for its considerations. Nine of 11 supervisors must vote in the affirmative to remove a democratically elected official from office.
Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay March 20 and filed charges of official misconduct following Mirkarimi’s plea and sentencing March 19 to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment stemming from a heated argument with his wife, Eliana Lopez, on New Year’s Eve, resulting in a bruise on Lopez’s arm.
The Ethics Commission, a quasi-judicial body comprising five political appointees and tasked with collecting evidence and making a non-enforceable recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, said Mirkarimi’s action on December 31 that led to his plea and conviction of misdemeanor false imprisonment was, in effect, an act of official misconduct despite struggling to interpret the “ambiguous” and “murky” definition of official misconduct.
Gascón’s office did not immediately return FCJ’s request for comment but has previously stated, without explanation, there is “no basis” for a criminal investigation.
Gascón was appointed District Attorney by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom who delayed his swearing in as Lt. Governor to push through the appointment of then-City Administrator Lee to serve out Newsom’s mayoral term on a caretaker basis. Gascón initially said he would “evaluate” filing charges against the mayor when and if the Ethics Commission completed its own investigation. The Ethics Commission subsequently punted claiming allegations of mayoral perjury is “irrelevant.”
The RDDC, a Democratic County Central Committee chartered club, said it expects all elected officials to adhere to the highest ethical standards.
“We further believe that such ethical standards must be enforced consistently and without the appearance of political motivation and that the enforcement of these ethical standards should be made without embellishment of the facts, especially when the result may lead to the removal of a democratically-elected official from office,” the club said.