It was understandably troubling for San Franciscans to discover in January that Ross Mirkarimi, whom they had just elected as sheriff, had been accused of domestic violence in connection with an incident in which he bruised the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez. That, of course, set in motion a series of events that led to Mayor Ed Lee suspending Mirkarimi and then, just Tuesday, four supervisors ultimately voting to reinstate him as sheriff.
While some may not approve of the supervisors’ decision, that part of the process is now complete. So finger-pointing, rumor-mongering and insinuations about the vote are childish and counterproductive to the meaningful conversations that must now take place for San Francisco and its reinstated sheriff to move ahead.
Mirkarimi was charged with three separate criminal misdemeanors related to domestic violence, and ultimately ended up pleading guilty to a fourth one: misdemeanor false imprisonment. He already is serving out the punishment the court sentenced him to regarding the false imprisonment plea.
Nonetheless, we share the concerns of District Attorney George Gascón regarding Mirkarimi’s ability to carry out certain aspects of the sheriff’s position related to domestic violence.
As Gascón suggested, Mirkarimi should recuse himself from all domestic violence-related work for the duration of his three-year probation period. Gascón outlined seven areas related to domestic violence that the sheriff should have another person in the department handle, and we wholeheartedly agree with the district attorney about handing off those roles. By humbly agreeing to the DA’s suggestion, the sheriff could show that he has learned from the events of the past nine months.
If San Franciscans remain unhappy with the way four supervisors interpreted the City Charter in Mirkarimi’s official misconduct case, the appropriate way for them to address his ongoing ability to do his job is through a recall vote. It has been suggested by no less than Jane Kim and John Avalos, two of the four supervisors who voted to reinstate the sheriff.
Calling a special recall election would require the gathering of some 49,000 signatures within 160 days. Although Kim, Avalos and supervisors David Campos and Christina Olague did not find Mirkarimi’s actions constituted official misconduct as defined under the charter, the public may have its own opinions about Mirkarimi’s conduct — and whether it should disqualify him from being able to keep the sheriff’s post moving forward.
Any incident of domestic violence is inexcusable. San Francisco has been at the forefront of fighting to protect victims of domestic violence for 30 years, and nothing about this sad spectacle suggests that The City won’t continue playing that role.
Mirkarimi and his legal team successfully convinced four members of the Board of Supervisors why his actions on New Year’s Eve did not constitute official misconduct under San Francisco’s City Charter. But if the citizens of San Francisco are not satisfied with that answer, they can put the issue on an upcoming ballot and serve as the ultimate jury themselves.