Following a nine-month ordeal, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was returned to his post Tuesday night when the Board of Supervisors declined to uphold the rarely used official misconduct charges filed in March by Mayor Ed Lee.
A majority of supervisors supported Lee’s push to remove the sheriff over his misdemeanor false imprisonment conviction stemming from a Dec. 31 physical altercation with his wife at the couple’s home. But four supervisors said Mirkarimi’s behavior was not official misconduct under the City Charter and that his removal could make it too easy to oust elected officials in the future.
See how the Board of Supervisors voted on whether or not to retain Ross Mirkarimi at the end of the article.
Nine votes were needed to remove Mirkarimi, but only seven supervisors took the advice of The City’s Ethics Commission, which voted 4-1 that official misconduct occurred. Voting against ouster were supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Christina Olague.
Campos spoke of setting a dangerous precedent for unchecked mayoral power and “opening this position up to abuse and manipulation going forward.” All four supervisors who sided against the mayor prefaced their vote with a reminder of how seriously The City takes domestic violence.
Mirkarimi, flanked by his wife and a group of cheering supporters after the hearing, said he wants to mend fences with the mayor and move forward on running an effective department.
“We have work to do,” Mirkarimi said. “We both need to rise above the politics and get the job done.”
Eliana Lopez, Mirkarimi’s wife, applauded Tuesday’s outcome.
“Finally, I think that justice was done,” Lopez said. “And I have a message for Mayor Lee. You have to be a bigger mayor, because we have our sheriff back finally.”
Lee released a statement chiding specific supervisors for their votes.
“I strongly disagree with the action taken by supervisors Avalos, Campos, Kim and Olague this evening,” he said.
“The board’s decision returns a convicted domestic batterer to lead the sheriff’s office, and I am concerned about our city’s nationally recognized domestic violence programs.”
Campos and Avalos, Mirkarimi’s former board colleagues, said their votes should not be taken as exoneration of the sheriff’s behavior and that he should be held accountable for a deplorable act.
“That we are here is tragic,” Campos said.
Avalos later added, “I have tremendous mixed feelings about Ross Mirkarimi.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener said Mirkarimi’s plea for a second chance in no way makes him qualified to re-assume his post.
“Redemption doesn’t mean that you don’t experience a loss as a consequence,” Wiener said.
Supervisor Carmen Chu was visibly disturbed by the comments, gestures and high-fives made by more than 120 Mirkarimi supporters who spoke during public comment.
“This is not a joyous event,” Chu told the crowd.
The argu-ments of attorneys for both sides of the legal fight mirrored those made during nine hearings over nearly six months at the Ethics Commission, which ultimately found that Mirkarimi committed misconduct on two of six charges.
City attorneys arguing on behalf of Lee said there is a direct relationship between Mirkarimi’s misdemeanor conviction and his official duties, given that the sheriff must oversee an office that supervises inmates and administers domestic violence programs.
“If you think about the facts of this case, it’s not a hard call,” said Sherri Kaiser, a deputy city attorney.
Despite requests from Mirkarimi’s attorneys, no supervisors addressed whether to call four witnesses to answer questions about allegations that the mayor may not have told the truth during his dramatic June 29 testimony in the case.
Staff writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.
Supporters, critics plead case in public comments
For five hours Tuesday, supporters of Ross Mirkarimi called on the Board of Supervisors to reinstate him as the elected sheriff and overturn Mayor Ed Lee’s attempt to oust Mirkarimi for a New Year’s Eve domestic violence incident.
Tears, passionate pleas, biblical references, accusations of political witch hunts and claims the punishment didn’t fit the crime colored the public comments supporting Mirkarimi. A chant of “Reinstate Ross” erupted from about 30 supporters toward the end of public comment, which began at 4:23 p.m. and stretched to 9:30 p.m.
Mirkarimi supporters numbered more than 120, while those favoring his removal were about 15.
Former Mayor Art Agnos, Mirkarimi’s most prominent supporter, said his removal would set a dangerous precedent with executive powers.
“As a former mayor, I know extraordinary power,” Agnos said. “During the Loma Prieta earthquake, I used the state of emergency to close neighborhoods, hold people without charges, put the army on the streets of our city.
But I never had this kind of power — and no one should.”
Domestic violence prevention advocates called for Mirkarimi’s ouster, further aggravating the rift between them and their frequent allies on the left.
“We are not the enemy,” said Beverly Upton, executive director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium, addressing Mirkarimi’s politically progressive supporters. “George Gascón is not the enemy. Ed Lee is not even the enemy. And you are not the enemy. These wounds are self-inflicted. Committing domestic violence is a crime. Committing domestic violence is not a progressive issue.”
Katharine Berg, associate director of La Casa de las Madres, another such organization, said reinstating Mirkarimi would “send a frightening message to survivors of violence and an empowering one to perpetrators across The City.”
But others called Mirkarimi a model candidate for restorative justice.
“As a domestic violence survivor, it is not easy for me to stand here and say I believe in redemption,” said Gabriel Haaland, political director of SEIU Local 1021. “It is not easy for me to stand here and say I believe in restorative justice. It would be easier for me to say I believe in punishment. But that is the very culture we are trying to change. There is no greater model. The man has stood there and said, ‘I have made a serious mistake and I am ready to make a difference.’”
The Board of Supervisors was asked whether to uphold charges of official misconduct against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi related to a New Year’s Eve domestic violence incident with his wife.
|Eric Mar, District 1||Oust|
|Mark Farrell, District 2||Oust|
|David Chiu, District 3||Oust|
|Carmen Chu, District 4||Oust|
|Christina Olague, District 5||Retain|
|Jane Kim, District 6||Retain|
|Sean Elsbernd, District 7||Oust|
|Scott Wiener, District 8||Oust|
|David Campos, District 9||Retain|
|Malia Cohen, District 10||Oust|
|John Avalos, District 11||Retain|