A March domestic violence conviction remains a heavy weight on reinstated Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who responded defiantly when District Attorney George Gascón recently called on him to abandon oversight of rehabilitation programs for batterers until completing his probation.
On Monday, Gascón and Mayor Ed Lee proposed using legislation to force Mirkarimi to recuse himself from overseeing such programs. The two officials again contended that Mirkarimi’s conviction “sends the wrong message” to domestic violence victims about coming forward in San Francisco.
Although the proposed law is not yet drafted, Gascón said it would aim to revoke city officials’ powers over certain aspects of their work if they have been convicted of a crime related to those duties. Gascón said the law would apply to convicted city officials during their criminal sentences, including probation periods. In the official’s stead, a “high-ranking” colleague would fulfill the duties, but report to someone other than the convicted official.
Flanked by domestic violence recovery advocates during a news conference to announce a $650,000 Department of Justice grant, Gascón and Lee said the “personal shortcomings” revealed by the Mirkarimi affair represent a “setback” to years of progress on the issue.
“We’ve got women every day who are suffering in silence,” Gascón said. “We’re making it more difficult by playing games.”
Mirkarimi, who has more than two years left in his probation and undergoes weekly batterer rehabilitation classes, was convicted in March of misdemeanor false imprisonment after a Dec. 31 fight with his wife, whose arm he grabbed hard enough to leave a bruise.
Lee subsequently sought to remove the elected sheriff from office by suspending him without pay, but after months of exhaustive City Hall hearings, only seven Board of Supervisors members agreed with the ouster. Under the City Charter, nine supervisors were needed to permanently terminate the sheriff.
After reviewing the recusal matter with attorneys, Mirkarimi wrote Gascón a letter saying that if conflicts arise, “steps will be taken to ensure that program integrity remains uncompromised.” On Monday, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Susan Fahey said the sheriff currently sees “no conflict of interest.”
“The criteria and guidelines of the programs were developed through a collaboration of staff, community experts and program advocates over the last two decades,” Fahey said. “As a public servant, the sheriff has been a longtime and outspoken ally of domestic violence and antiviolence programs.”
Gascón refuted the protocol laid out in Mirkarimi’s letter, and said there would clearly be a “lack of faith in the system,” and that “this flies in the face of common sense.” The mayor echoed those statements.
“This is a crisis of confidence that we have to have with survivors,” Lee said.