Ross Mirkarimi Gets Timeline for Pending Hearing -- But Not Answers

Ross and Francisco.jpg
Joe Eskenazi
Ross Mirkarimi didn't get answers today -- but he did get a schedule
A proceeding held before the Ethics Commission today addressed the format of the forthcoming rigmarole to determine the fate of Sheriff-in-Limbo Ross Mirkarimi. If you were a fan of lengthy, procedural discussions broken by lengthy, embittered public comment -- and sealed by setting dates into the summer for what figures to be a lengthy, procedural, and embittering process -- then, boy, was this the hearing for you.

Shepard Kopp, Mirkarimi's attorney, made it clear at the outset that he objected to the very basis of Monday's Ethics hearing, describing as half-baked the practice of setting up rules for a process that is already underway. It was, Kopp said, not unlike "a criminal defendant being hauled into court and being told, 'The DA over there has charged you with a crime. Now we've got to figure out what the rules are and the standard of proof is.'"

Those rules and standards have yet to be determined. But, after tonight, at least both sides have a briefing schedule of when each will, essentially, be made to say what it plans to say.

(Up next: actually saying those things at a hearing, for which establishing the ground rules was the ostensible subject of today's proceedings).

The mayor's side will disclose its witnesses regarding matters of fact by April 30 and its witnesses on procedural matters by May 7. Mirkarimi -- whose career is on the ropes following a physical dispute with his wife on New Year's Eve -- will begin listing his witnesses by early May as well. All told, a volley of briefs will be fired off by both sides up to May 25. The actual Ethics hearing all this is leading to should commence by June or July.

By that time, Ethics has a number of tough questions to answer. They include:

  • The applicable standard of proof to which the mayor must convince Ethics Commissioners that Mirkarimi committed misconduct (Kopp insisted on "beyond a reasonable doubt"); 

  • Whether there will be live witnesses, exhibits, and other trappings of a trial -- or the action will largely be the text-heavy, brief- and declaration-based format Ethics' staff suggested that harks to a game of legalistic Dungeons & Dragons;

  • Whether Mirkarimi is mandated to participate in a continuing city attorney investigation -- and whether the city attorney is entitled to undertake that investigation at all.

Peter Keith, the deputy city attorney handling the case, claimed that any sheriff's deputy suspended over alleged wrongdoing who refused to participate in a subsequent investigation "would be fired." Ethics Commissioner Paul Renne seemed puzzled, noting "So, if you suspend him of his duties, and he won't talk to you, that's a violation of his duties?" Keith said it was -- adding that Mirkarimi's status as an elected official is immaterial.

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Joe Eskenazi
Mirkarimi is flanked by his lawyers Shepard Kopp (near) and David Waggoner
Kopp disagreed, and claimed the city attorney has threatened that Mirkarimi's failure to turn over materials and subject himself to "an interrogation" would result in further ethics charges. What's more, Kopp claimed that only the Ethics Commission has the authority to initiate such an investigation -- not the city attorney. The prosecution, in Kopp's view is "scrambling" to come up with evidence of the charges it listed in its brief.

After establishing the aforementioned briefing schedule -- and punting the weightier questions to the cusp of June -- the Ethics Commissioners heard around an hour's worth of public comment. Heartfelt, pro-Mirkarimi invective carried the day by about a 10-to-1 margin -- though the sheriff appeared to wince a bit at some of the more heavy-handed conspiracy-mongering. Also, in a possible first, city officials actually took up a suggestion made during public comment. City Hall regular David Pilpel advocated standardizing the font size of the forthcoming legal briefs the commissioners capped at 35 pages -- and, lo, it was done.

A great deal of legal text -- in 12-point, by the way -- will be generated between now and summer. Big questions have been put off, but cannot be blown off. "I think we'll have a lot more answers by May 25," said Kopp. And, to answer a different sort of big question, when asked if he would put Mayor Ed Lee on the stand, Kopp replied "If we get the chance."

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4 comments
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Mokeman
Mokeman

Ross is testosterone-packed. He gets to eat.

BarryEisenberg
BarryEisenberg

Let's rename it the Unethical Commission

Laurie Zaragoza
Laurie Zaragoza

I laugh at all the Ethics garbage in our legal system.  I am 52 years old and not one court, county, state or federal ever followed through.  As a matter of fact, they way the system works is by the time you have raised such a ruckus, most people are broke and homeless.  You can prove your case 500 % and still lose against a Judge who is having a bad day, may not like you,, etc.... This I could even prove, time and time again.  If religious beliefs worked better, I would be really wealthy and people would be really nice and they are not, just looking for another con game?

strickla
strickla

Nicely summarized. I was at the hearing too and was startled by the farcical beginning, with the Mayor's attorneys demanding a public hearing with witnesses before anything else happened just so we "could be fair to the witnesses who didn't ask to be a part of this." In other words, all they want is more media circus and maximum character assassination even though that has nothing to do with the legal matters at hand but everything to do with a witch hunt.

This was all conveyed in a memo handed over one hour before the meeting to the commission. Somehow most of the commissioners received that memo, though they didn't receive the detailed letter from Mirkarimi's lawyer Kopp laying out the legal questions which had been emailed to commission staff director John St. Croix earlier that morning. We were told St. Croix "was traveling today." Uh, traveling where?There is such a thing as checking your email with wifi, particularly on the eve of one of the most important meetings of your committee's career. Jeesh, the sleaze mixed with incompetence are sometimes staggering to watch at City Hall.

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