Mayor Ed Lee suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office Wednesday afternoon after serving his attorney with a nine-page document outlining charges of alleged official misconduct, which could result in his permanent removal from the office he has held since January.
The misconduct charges, drafted by the city attorney at the mayor’s behest, rehash the details surrounding a New Year’s Eve incident in which Mirkarimi allegedly grabbed the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez, hard enough to leave a bruise. The document says Mirkarimi is guilty of official misconduct, which the City Charter defines as “conduct that falls below the standard of decency, good faith and right action impliedly required of all public officers.”
That conduct, the charges allege, includes “falsely imprisoning Ms. Lopez; committing acts of domestic violence against Ms. Lopez that resulted in physical injuries to her; threatening to use his power and status as a City official against her in child custody proceedings; and endangering the health of a child.”
It also references a newspaper essay published Tuesday by Mirkarimi’s neighbor Abraham Mertens in which he alleged that Mirkarimi and his wife pressured him and his wife to destroy evidence and lie to police.
On Tuesday, before his suspension, Mirkarimi said, “I do not believe that the conduct I have taken responsibility for constitutes official misconduct within the meaning of the law. I look forward to making my case.”
However, The City is arguing that the misconduct did not have to occur when Mirkarimi was sheriff nor relate to his duties as sheriff, although it argues that what he did does have a direct connection to the responsibilities of the elected office. Mirkarimi was sworn into office Jan. 8.
The charges were served Wednesday afternoon to Mirkarimi’s new attorney, David Waggoner, no stranger to high-profile political ethics disputes. Waggoner defended former Supervisor Tony Hall before the Ethics Commission on charges of misusing campaign funds. Waggoner did not immediately return calls for comment.
On Monday, Mirkarimi was sentenced to one day in jail and three years of probation. He was required to undergo 52 weeks of domestic violence batterer’s classes and complete 100 hours of community service. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge. Other charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness were dropped.
The City’s Ethics Commission must now hold a hearing on the suspension, which will likely include a video of Lopez tearfully describing the alleged abuse. The commission would then send a record of its proceedings to the Board of Supervisors, which ultimately must decide whether to permanently remove Mirkarimi from office. Nine of the 11 members would need to support his ouster.
The proceedings are not expected to begin for at least three weeks.
The charges explained
The misconduct charges against Ross Mirkarimi make the following case about why he should no longer serve as sheriff:
— Misused his office when he stated told wife that he could win custody of their child because he was very powerful
— His one day-jail sentence undermined his ability to receive inmates and supervise county jails
— His actions undermine the integrity of the Sheriff’s office.
— He may have discouraged witnesses and encouraged the destruction of criminal evidence or directed others to do so
— Used illicit force against wife
— Falsely imprisoned wife, using force to restrain her against her will
— Engaged in acts of domestic violence
— Committed criminal acts resulting in his serving three years of probation
Source: City Attorney’s Office