Ross Mirkarimi: Ethics Commission Says Sheriff Is Guilty of Official Misconduct

Categories: Politics
mirkarimi suzanne.jpeg
Suzanne Stathatos
He didn't know being sheriff would be this much work
San Francisco's Ethics Commission decided Thursday night in a 4-1 vote that Sheriff-in-limbo Ross Mirkarimi engaged in official misconduct when he bruised his wife's arm during a New Year's Eve domestic dispute.
After the marathon meeting, which lasted 11 long hours, the commission was unable to agree on a recommendation on whether to remove the sheriff from office permanently. Ultimately, city supervisors will decide Mirkarimi's fate.

During the hearing, the Ethics Commission deliberated five issues:

  • Is there evidence that the sheriff abused his office by threatening to "use his power?"

  • Did he dissuade any witnesses?

  • Did Mirkarimi intentionally deceive an inspector when she came to collect his firearms?
  • Did the sheriff fail to support and encourage victims to give testimony?

In the end, the commission was in agreement about only one thing: that Mirkarimi abused his wife -- and this amounted to official misconduct.
Suzanne Stathatos
Commission Chairman Ben Hur was the only dissenting vote, claiming the City Charter gave the mayor way too much power. Mirkarimi's attorney, David Waggoner, obviously agreed with that statement, saying "when you give a mayor that kind of power, it opens up a can of worms that ... really is a real threat to democracy."
However, other commissioners argued that Mirkarimi's conduct "clearly falls below any standard of decency, good faith, and right action," commissioner Paul Renne said.

Although it wasn't clear whether the commission was ready to dismiss Mirkarimi for good, what was clear was that both sides felt they had won.

"I am pleased that the members of the Ethics Commission ... agreed with me," Mayor Lee said in a statement.

That remark was followed by this comment from Mirkarimi's attorney: "What the Commission has done tonight is effectively completely agree with us ... they've rejected the bulk of the mayor's case," Waggoner said.
Paula Canny, who has represented Eliana Lopez in the matter, seemed to think that Mirkarimi "just got screwed." Still, Lopez stuck by her husband, reiterating that she was not abused and that like many of Mirkarimi's supporters, she thinks this is nothing more than a "political witch-hunt."
In between all the legalese, there were some humorous moments, in no particular order:

  • Kopp listed the case "accidentally" as "an unnecessarily protracted dog-and-pony show."

  • Attorney Peter Keith returned the war of words, calling Mirkarimi's actions "stupid."

  • Some "psycho" blond woman named Jocelyn pinned her past personal relationship dilemmas on the county sheriff when she told the courtroom that she "feels scared when she goes to the same gym as Ross."

  • A Mirkarimi stalwart sang (yes, sang) his support to the commission. That livened up the three hours of public deliberation, during which time Renne took some very long blinks.

So how did we get here anyway? The drama began when Mirkarimi and his wife had an afternoon argument on New Year's Eve, which ended in Ross bruising her arm, and Lopez filming the injury while crying in front of a camera. This incident became public just a few days before Mirkarimi was sworn in as the county sheriff on Jan. 8. Five days later, he was arrested and charged with battery, child endangerment, and dissuading a witness.

In March, Mirkarimi took a plea deal, which left him with a conviction for misdemeanor false imprisonment. He was given three years' probation.
But the couple's nightmare didn't stop there. Mirkarimi was ordered by the court to stay away from both his wife and 3-year-old son, Theo. After that, he was suspended without pay from his post as sheriff. Then, the mayor asked him to resign, and when he didn't, Lee turned to the Ethics Commission, demanding the group remove Mirkarimi from office.

"I'm shocked to see what happened today, but we are fighters -- and he's not going to resign," Lopez said.

And finally, Mirkarimi said his piece: "The will of the voters is being undermined. The people have the complete opportunity to recall, if they want to, the sheriff that they elected."

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Actually, it is starting to really smell and sound like a political witch-hunt.

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