Suspended Sheriff Requests Postponement of “Highly Charged” Board Vote

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

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Published on September 10, 2012 with 12 Comments

Attorneys for suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi (pictured with his wife, Eliana Lopez, at a ‘Stand with Ross’ rally on Sunday) today filed a brief with the San Francisco Ethics Commission requesting a postponement of a vote that will decide whether Mirkarimi will keep his job. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

September 10, 2012

Citing due process protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution, attorneys representing suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi today filed a brief with the San Francisco Ethics Commission requesting the quasi-judicial body to postpone its submission of its findings of fact to the Board of Supervisors, the eleven-member legislative body that will decide if Mirkarimi will be reinstated or be permanently removed from office.

Such a delay would “avoid forcing a political train wreck at the Board in the midst of a highly charged political election,” the brief filed by defense attorneys David Waggoner and Shepard Kopp, states. “Sending the record to the Board immediately prior to an election deprives the Sheriff of a neutral decision maker, as guaranteed by the Due Process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments.”

Supervisors Eric Mar, David Chiu, Christina Olague, David Campos and John Avalos are each running to retain their seats on the Board that will be decided by voters on November 6.  Lee appointed Olague to the District 5 seat following Mirkarimi’s election to sheriff, and Mar is facing stiff opposition from former Recreation and Park Commissioner David Lee who is expected to exploit Mar’s vote in an attempt to unseat the incumbent.

Citing media reports, “Each member of the Board has been warned either directly or indirectly that he or she will face political wrath for his or her respective vote,” the brief states. “A normal judge or jury has no such interest in the outcome of a case; if they did, recusal or dismissal would be appropriate. Here, however, it is clear that each Board member’s vote may determine whether or not they retain their employment as members of the Board. Furthermore, the Mayor and his associates have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Board members running to retain their seats.”

Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay following Mirkarimi’s plea and sentencing to one count of misdemeanor false imprisonment stemming for a heated argument with his wife, Eliana Lopez, on December 31 that resulted in a bruise on Lopez’ arm.

The Commission, which struggled to interpret and apply the definition of official misconduct to the Mirkarimi case, nevertheless voted 4-1 (Chair Ben Hur in dissent) to recommend Mirkarimi’s removal from office.

The Commission has tentatively scheduled to submit its findings to the Board following its September 11 meeting.  Nine of eleven supervisors must vote in the affirmative to remove a democratically elected official from office.  Should the Board not vote on the matter within 30 days of receipt of the Commission’s submissions, Mirkarimi would be reinstated by default, according to the City Charter.

“The Commission should continue this matter in an effort to minimize the political pressures at stake and give some semblance of fairness to the Board vote,” the brief concludes. “Fundamental due process should not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency.”

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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