By Luke Thomas
September 14, 2012
The San Francisco Ethics Commission denied Thursday a request by suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to postpone until after the November election the Commission’s delivery of its findings of fact and non-binding recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
“There is no evidence suggesting that any member of the Board of Supervisors will disregard the facts and the law and instead vote to sustain the charges based upon perceived political pressure,” wrote Ethics Commission Chair Ben Hur. “The Commission cannot presume that any Board member will act in such manner.”
“Second, it is not the role of the Commission to determine the optimal time for the Board to decide this matter,” Hur added. “Indeed, granting the Sheriff’s request could cause the Commission to engage in the type of political maneuvering that it seeks to avoid. The Commission will not manipulate the timing of the Board’s decision in a misguided attempt to predict the nadir of public pressure on the Supervisors. Rather, the Commission will send the record and its recommendation to the Board promptly upon completion.”
The delay was sought to “avoid forcing a political train wreck at the Board in the midst of a highly charged political election,” wrote Mirkarimi defense attorney David Waggoner in a brief filed with the Commission on Monday. “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.”
Five members of the Board of Supervisors are seeking re-election in November including Eric Mar, David Chiu, David Campos and John Avalos. Supervisor Christina Olague, who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee following Mirkarimi’s election to Sheriff, is seeking election in her own right.
The Commission, a five-member quasi-judicial body comprising political appointees, voted 4-1 (Hur in dissent) last month to sustain two of six charges of alleged official misconduct filed by the mayor, who suspended Mirkarimi without pay following Mirkarimi’s plea in March to one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment stemming from a heated argument with his wife, Eliana Lopez, on December 31, during which Mirkarimi grabbed Lopez’ arm and caused a bruise.
The incident was reported to police January 4 without Lopez’ knowledge, consent or permission by the couple’s neighbor, Ivory Madison, who provided police a 53-second video of a tearful Lopez pointing to the bruise on her arm. Madison, who represented herself to Lopez as an attorney, according to Lopez – urged Lopez to make the video so that it could be used against Mirkarimi if the couple sought divorce and entered into a child custody battle.
Mirkarimi and Lopez have maintained from the outset that the zealous nature of Mirkarimi’s prosecution is politically motivated – a belief bolstered by the mayor’s alleged perjury on the witness stand – and believe the interpretation of the definition of official misconduct, as defined in the City Charter, is being misapplied and misinterpreted in an effort to remove a political rival from office.
Mirkarimi, a progressive, opposed Lee’s appointment to serve as caretaker mayor following then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s election to Lt. Governor.
Nine of eleven Supervisors must vote in the affirmative to remove a democratically elected official from office. A suspended official is reinstated by default if the Board fails to vote on the matter within the 30 days, according the City Charter. The clock is expected to begin ticking on Tuesday.
Mirkarimi said he was disappointed but not surprised by the denial of his request.
“The politics are so brazen, it’s official,” Mirkarimi told FCJ. “Use the family as a weapon to oust the democratically elected Sheriff. When he wouldn’t go, cut his pay so that he cannot provide for his family. When he wouldn’t resign, dehumanize him in every portrayal. When that’s not enough, attack his wife’s credibility. If they stand their ground, force the Mirkarimi vote before the November election by putting the supervisors running for re-election, or seeking higher office, into a pincer move.”