If someone were taking odds eight months ago on which San Francisco official would become the talk of the town, I doubt Supervisor Ed Jew would have even made the list. But now he’s in a world all his own, and that’s not a good place to be.
Today, Jew is facing felony charges — nine of them — for allegedly lying under oath and falsifying documents that claimed he lived in a Sunset district house when he was running for office last year. The charges, brought Tuesday by District Attorney Kamala Harris, are just the latest troubles for the rookie supervisor, who came out of nowhere to win the district seat in November.
Somehow, I don’t think it helped Jew’s case that when he decided to surrender to police after the charges came down, he did so in Burlingame, where it’s been insinuated he actually was living low these many months. If I had been his lawyer trying to make a case for his actual residency, I would have suggested walking the four blocks to Taraval police station to turn himself in, but maybe that’s just because as a Sunset district native, I actually know where it is.
No one should ever have more lawyers than friends, especially in a business that is dependent on connections and alliances. Jew positioned himself as a maverick on the board, refusing to place himself on any segment of the political spectrum. And that’s all well and good, except his colleagues never understood where Jew stood, since his votes were usually accompanied by silence.
He voted one way on issues in committee and then voted the other way at the full board. About the only thing fellow supervisors could count on was the element of surprise.
On that end, he didn’t disappoint. When the FBI raided his various homes and offices last month, it sent a shock wave through City Hall, since the quiet flower shop owner seemed to be the last person who would be the focus of a federal investigation. And, since then, so many revelations have surfaced, it seems fair to say that Jew was living a very complicated life.
So far, he’s been unable, according to the City Attorney’s Office, to produce any viable documents proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he actually lived in the house located in the districthe was elected to represent.
Certainly his neighbors, who would be great witnesses on his behalf, are going to be of little help since they say they rarely, if ever, saw him there.
Water records from the house would seem to indicate that Jew and his family were drinking from and bathing in bottled water — since there’s no usage during the critical months when he was on the campaign trail coming from the precious source at Hetch Hetchy. Until this week, Jew didn’t seem to react as if this were a huge concern, but nine felony counts later, inquiring minds are demanding a lot of answers.
That doesn’t even take into consideration the federal probe focusing on how $40,000 ended up in his possession to fix some permit problems that was actually intended for an outside consultant. Jew’s explanation that two businessmen insisted on giving him cash for work rendered by someone else eludes both reason and logic. He said he was going to use some of the money to pay for playground improvements at a recreation center in his district — except that recreation department officials knew nothing of it until after the raid. And when Jew finally got around to sending a cashier’s check to the department recently, it was returned post haste — as if to say, you’ve got to be kidding.
But this is no joke. At least a half dozen of his colleagues on the board are calling for Jew to resign, and even if he does not, it looks more and more as if he would not be able to function in the face of all the official inquiries. He could wait to go to trial, but if he’s convicted of just one felony, he would automatically be removed from office. And it already looks as if there’s enough votes on the board to toss him from his perch.
Mayor Gavin Newsom hasn’t seemed to want to move to put that process in motion yet, but there’s little doubt that as the investigations move ahead, there will be more pressure to do so. And the legal proceedings may not even matter as much as the court of public opinion, where Jew is fast losing credibility.
Even before the law moved in, people said Ed Jew was a mystery. He’s proven to be that and more, the central character in a story that’s become a real page-turner.
Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (415) 359-2663.