The long legal battle over removing suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi will finally reach some kind of conclusion Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors, as its 11 members decide whether the former supervisor committed official misconduct surrounding an incident in which he bruised his wife’s arm last winter.
In an apparent response to a San Francisco Chronicle column by former Mayor Willie Brown suggesting that three supervisors hope to get out of voting on the matter, board President David Chiu recently sought clarification of the ground rules for such recusals. Board counsel Scott Emblidge wrote that recusal in this case is only permitted in limited circumstances such as a “clear conflict of interest” or a situation that could deny someone due process of law.
“Supervisors who are absent and who have not been excused ‘shall be sent for by the President of the Board and brought to the Chamber by the Sergeant-at-Arms or by special messengers appointed for the purpose,” Emblidge wrote.
Mirkarimi’s lawyers say allegations that Mayor Ed Lee may not have been truthful in his June 29 sworn testimony in the case should be explored further, given that the mayor has been accused of speaking with supervisors about the suspension before it happened. They likened such conversation to “jury tampering.”
But Emblidge’s letter emphatically stated that Tuesday’s hearing is not a “jury trial.”
Lee testified that he never spoke to supervisors about his March suspension of Mirkarimi and that he didn’t send proxies to offer the embattled sheriff an alternative job in exchange for an amicable resignation.
The only known evidence for claims contradicting Lee come from two of the mayor’s political rivals: Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker and former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin.
Walker claims that Supervisor Christina Olague told her on several occasions that the mayor sought her advice before the suspension. However, she recently provided The San Francisco Examiner with an audio recording in which a voice that sounds like Olague’s says something slightly different from what Walker quoted her as saying in a sworn declaration submitted to supervisors.
In the recording, the voice says, “Hey Debra, I never had that conversation. Thanks.” However, Walker’s declaration, which implies that Olague was attempting to suppress the truth about the alleged conversation, quoted her as saying, “Debra, the conversation never happened.”
Olague has given a variety of responses to questions about the situation, at times denying the account. Last week, she lashed out at Walker and said she couldn’t remember exactly what happened. Questioned earlier this week, Olague simply said, “Nope, nope, nope, bye” and walked away.
Meanwhile, Peskin said well-connected building permit expediter Walter Wong approached him on behalf of the Mayor’s Office to offer Mirkarimi another job. Wong has not returned more than 10 phone calls from The Examiner, but has denied the account to Chinese media, saying the “mainstream media” is trying to “mess with the Chinese community.”
It remains to be seen whether supervisors will explore these issues Tuesday, but attorneys for Mirkarimi want subpoenas issued for Peskin, Walker, Wong and Olague, who is presumably set to vote on the matter. Nine supervisors need to agree with the official misconduct charges to permanently remove Mirkarimi from office.