Ethics hearings to determine whether Ross Mirkarimi can return to his post as sheriff will probably take months and involve both complex procedural debates and the live testimony of witnesses.
Monday was the start of the official misconduct proceedings initiated by Mayor Ed Lee against the suspended sheriff. The bulk of the day’s action consisted of the five-member Ethics Commission establishing a timeline for the submission of witness lists and legal briefs to set the rules for the proceedings.
Mirkarimi pleaded guilty last month to one charge of false imprisonment related to a New Year’s Eve incident in which he bruised his wife’s arm during an argument. Lee suspended Mirkarimi from office March 21 and appointed Vicki Hennessy to his post.
As his ethics case began, City Hall’s Room 400 was a packed house; dozens of spectators lined up to get seats, some for hours. Many spoke during the public comment phase of the three-hour hearing, with most expressing support for Mirkarimi. Some characterized the proceedings as a politically motivated witch hunt.
After the hearing, Mirkarimi thanked supporters. “Because I made a mistake with my wife, does not detract in my ability whatsoever from still being a very capable sheriff,” he said. “Now, I would have a perspective that would only aid to the cause.”
Beverly Upton, an advocate for domestic violence victims, said the commission’s proceedings will have a significant impact.
“The world is watching,” she said. “My concern is that victims are watching. Victims who cannot come out of their homes and talk. My other concern is that abusers are watching. We do not want to embolden abusers.”
The commission will tell the Board of Supervisors whether it should oust Mirkarimi from his post. It would take nine votes by the 11-member board to remove him from office.
The commission is expected to meet May 29 to further discuss rules for the proceedings.