Supervisors’ hearing on Mirkarimi’s fate gets underway
By Heather Knight
Oct. 9. 2012
UPDATE: Scores of people have been testifying at public comment for hours. Beforehand, the supervisors got their chance to ask questions of attorneys for both sides.
They tried to boil the matter down to a simple question: when and under what conditions does an elected official commit official misconduct?
Attorneys for Mirkarimi said the sheriff’s actions — bruising his wife’s arm during the New Year’s Even argument — didn’t amount to official misconduct because it occurred before he was sworn into office and wasn’t related to the sheriff’s on-the-job duties.
Shepard Kopp, an attorney for Mirkarimi, warned the supervisors that under Lee’s overly broad definition of official misconduct, any one of them could be the next official to be suspended without pay for committing an action unrelated to their jobs.
“What if you declared bankruptcy? You made contracts with people and you haven’t paid the money you owe them?” he asked the board. “Under the mayor’s theory, that could be official misconduct — if you file your tax returns late, if you default on a loan.”
Lee, who was at City Hall for an unrelated Latino Heritage Month celebration, said that was mere speculation — and that the supervisors had to examine the facts of this particular case.
“This is domestic violence,” he said. “This is an involuntary incarceration of another person, happened to be a spouse, and I think if you narrow it down to that set of facts, you cannot help but conclude, as I did and the Ethics Commission did, that this is official misconduct.”
He added that the notion he could have supervisors in his line of sight next was “an extension of conspiracy theories that don’t exist.” END UPDATE
The betting among reporters covering the Board of Supervisors’ hearing on whether to remove suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office is currently focused on just how many hours it will be. Six? Eight? Ten?
At least 200 people waiting to testify during public comment formed a line stretching from the board chambers down the hall, across the grand building to the mayor’s office and around the corner. Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez, walked up and down the line, shaking supporters’ hands and giving them hugs. “We love Ross! We love Ross!” his supporters chanted.
“This was not official misconduct, and the people are sending a loud message,” Lopez told reporters, referring to a New Year’s Eve argument in which Mirkarimi grabbed her arm hard enough to bruise it. Mayor Ed Lee said Mirkarimi’s plea to a misdemeanor of false imprisonment was grounds to remove him from office, which the supervisors will ultimately decide.
Mirkarimi and Lopez had arrived at City Hall about two hours earlier for a noon rally on the front steps, both wearing gold wedding rings and big smiles. They said they had come straight from a hayride at a local pumpkin patch. Mirkarimi carried their 3-year-old son, Theo, on his hip and bounced him in time to the chants of “Reinstate Ross!” Theo was carrying a toy sheriff’s car that his dad had him show the television cameras before he left for nap time.
“This is a nice welcome after 10 months of what has been an amazing ordeal – agonizing – to my family and the San Francisco family,” Mirkarimi said. “We can only hope for justice.”
Like any good San Francisco rally, there were plenty of eccentricities. A man rode in on a recumbent bicycle with a caricature of Lee hanging from it, showing the mayor as a puppet with a big dollar sign on his belly. Two people burned incense, which Mirkarimi said with a laugh was intended to “cleanse the evil spirits.” Archbishop Franzo King gave an unusual reason for reinstating Mirkarimi.
“I love a sheriff who’s been to jail,” King said. “You might get your phone call. You might get bailed out on time. The food might be OK!”
Several well-known San Franciscans attended the rally to support Mirkarimi including former Mayor Art Agnos, former District Attorney Terence Hallinan, former Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver and some candidates for supervisor in District Five, Mirkarimi’s former seat.
“This would never have happened with me,” Agnos told the gathered crowd. “Anyone who knows Eliana Lopez knows she is not a woman who could be or has been abused. This is a mistake that’s gone on far too long…End this political travesty!”
Earlier, he told The Chronicle that if Mirkarimi was removed from his post by the supervisors, “the next step would be going to the courts to rectify the obvious machinations and shenanigans that have been going on, but I hope it ends here.”