A match made in City Hall

Though he will always be Mistermayor to me (sniff), within the next week or so, Gavin Newsom will be leaving for weaker pastures as lieutenant governor. Also leaving office is Supervisor Chris Daly, who my friend refers to as “Supervisor Straitjacket.” Having publicly acknowledged time and again that he has no future as a politician, Daly will devote his efforts to running a bar called the Buck Tavern. 

I think it fitting that both men are leaving around the same time. In some ways, it seems they needed each other. Newsom could not have asked for a better bogeyman then the erudite self-appointed Prince of the Disenfranchised to scare up donations for his mayoral campaigns.

And Daly found the perfect sartorially gifted and sparkly toothed example of “The Man” against which to rally his army.

Despite the fact that these men served for years as convenient political antipodes (insofar as we have a spectrum here in San Francisco), perhaps they are not so different. Sure, Daly is suspected of living in Fairfield and Newsom is suspected of living under a hair shield, but both men are loners when it comes to decision making. And Newsom might want to ski Tibet while Daly wants to free Tibet, but they are each thin-skinned and apt to tightly hold grudges.

Newsom might have high approval ratings while Daly has high removal ratings, but on the political tennis court, Daly has been a formidable opponent and the matchup has been fascinating. I am hoping for more peace at City Hall with the new class of leaders. I think that is what The City needs. But I cannot lie: I will miss “The Adventures of Supervisor Straitjacket and Mistermayor.” Farewell, gentlemen.

She did the crime, but costs a dime

Deborah Madden, the Police Department crime-lab technician who admitted to snorting some of the cocaine she was supposed to be testing, will not be charged with any crime here in San Francisco.

If it takes more than a confession for the state of California to charge you with violating the law, why are the jails so crowded? Did those poor suckers actually video-tape themselves committing a crime while standing in the lobby of a police station yelling, “Look at me!”? Apparently that is what it takes.

But I digress. Madden could still be convicted of felony cocaine possession in San Mateo County, where she lives.

And San Francisco taxpayers better hope that conviction happens because we are otherwise on the hook for Madden’s entire pension and benefits. According to the City Charter, a retiree found guilty of a crime can only recoup the money he or she paid into the fund and no city funds go to that person. Presumably, this law was meant to prevent The City from rewarding criminals who abuse the public trust.

Madden’s actions caused the dismissal of some 600 drug cases and yet, since March 1, she has received pension payments of $5,485 per month. Annually, Madden is set to receive $65,823 for life, including cost-of-living increases. Failure to vigorously pursue a conviction against her would be another crime.

Sorry progressives, he’s still mayor

A few weeks ago, I received the following message, “When Newsom takes office — is it a calendar event or something he can delay? This is something that has never been clear. Please help us citizens and readers.”

Since then, I have received more questions about the legal effect of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s delayed swearing in as lieutenant governor. And since the Board of Supervisors is going to (at least try to) elect an interim mayor today, before Newsom’s swearing in, the question of “what’s the significance of the swearing-in date?” is as timely as ever.

Read on — and be a hit at cocktail parties.

Let us start with our local laws. The San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code says, “Any person holding an office … who shall, during his or her term of office, hold or retain any other office … shall be deemed to have thereby vacated the office held by him or her under the City and County.”

In other words, as soon as Newsom’s term as lieutenant governor begins, he cannot possibly be the mayor anymore, thus allowing the Board of Supervisors to choose a replacement.

So when does a lieutenant governor term begin?

According to the California Constitution, “Terms of elective offices provided for by this Constitution, other than Members of the Legislature, commence on the Monday after January 1 following election.” So, it would seem that his term began Monday, Jan. 3.

However, the state constitution also says that all public officers “shall, before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe” the oath of office. When faced with this issue (usually in the context of term limits) courts have generally held that the “term of office” does not start until the oath is taken.

That begs the question: Can the oath (and thus the term) be delayed? There is nothing in the constitution that prevents a swearing-in delay. As a general rule, any ambiguities in the law have to be resolved in favor of the wishes of the elected person, in this case Newsom.

Finally, if someone wanted to complain about Newsom’s delay, they cannot just file a lawsuit. They have to convince the attorney general to take the case. And while it would be fun to see former San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris fight to keep Newsom out of the lieutenant governor’s seat as her first order of business, that is probably not going to happen.

For these reasons, the office of the mayor is arguably not vacant until he takes the oath of office as lieutenant governor. Unless there is a legal challenge by current members of the Board of Supervisors, should the board designate an interim mayor at today’s meeting, that vote will be advisory only and can be changed by the incoming supervisors, who will have the final appointment authority.

Bay Area NewsDeborah MaddenLocalMelissa GriffinSan Francisco

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