As a judgment looms for suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, he and his supporters are making eleventh-hour pleas for his political future.
The longtime supervisor was the only member of the progressive political faction to win citywide election last November, but a domestic violence scandal involving his wife quickly overtook his first two months in office. After Mirkarimi pleaded guilty in court to misdemeanor false imprisonment, Mayor Ed Lee suspended him without pay, beginning a rare removal process for elected officials.
After a series of misconduct proceedings that ended in the mayor’s favor, Mirkarimi now faces a Board of Supervisors hearing on whether he should be removed from office permanently. And the notably voluble Mirkarimi isn’t going to go down without a fight.
He will make his case again at 4 p.m. today at the Main Library with a message likely to mirror what he said in the run-up to the Ethics Commission misconduct hearings — namely, that a heated argument with his wife ended with him bruising her arm, but that the incident was overblown into a political witch hunt.
At various community meetings last spring, Mirkarimi said he pleaded guilty because he didn’t think he could get a fair trial, but that his decision has been inappropriately used against him. He often said that the “legacy of Jim Crow laws” is still alive in the local jails, which house a disproportionate number of black inmates.
“It’s no different than any other county, but I expect more of San Francisco,” Mirkarimi told a group of people in June. “We made that clear in our inaugural … and that’s threatening to some people.” Even so, he added, he never expected the “level of retribution” he encountered.
Mirkarimi has begun to receive support from members of city employee unions, which pressured Lee in the spring over labor contracts. A small bevy of city employees used the Women’s Building as a backdrop Wednesday to call for Mirkarimi’s reinstatement, although Women’s Building Development Director Tatjana Loh said the event was not sponsored by her organization.
“I guess they were using it as a visual,” Loh said.
Meanwhile, the Bernal Heights Democratic Club and the San Francisco League of Pissed-Off Voters have issued statements urging that Mirkarimi be reinstated. The Richmond Democratic Club stopped short of backing Mirkarimi’s reinstatement, but called for an investigation into Lee’s June 29 testimony in the case, which drew allegations that the mayor lied that both the Ethics Commission and the District Attorney’s Office opted not to probe.
After the Ethics Commission ruled that Mirkarimi was guilty on two of six official misconduct charges, Lee released a statement praising commissioners for agreeing with his suspension, even “in the face of a sustained campaign to distract and misdirect them from the facts.”
The commission is set to issue its written findings Sept. 18, Executive Director John St. Croix said. If the process goes according to plan, supervisors will have to rule by
Oct. 18 — in the thick of a campaign season in which six members are up for re-election. At least nine of 11 supervisors must sustain the charges for Mirkarimi to be removed.
Mirkarimi knows supervisors are in a tough political predicament, but he argues that the proper way to remove an elected official is through a recall election. He said he can’t face letting the mayor make that call on his own.
“I am certainly pained by the fact that they’re put in this position,” Mirkarimi said of his former peers. “But this is not something we walk away from — not at all.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was changed on September 10, 2012
Monday’s San Francisco Examiner story about suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi seeking public support erroneously stated that the Richmond Democratic Club called for his reinstatement. The club stopped short of backing Mirkarimi’s reinstatement, but called for an investigation into Lee’s June 29 testimony in the case, which drew allegations that the mayor lied that both the Ethics Commission and the District Attorney’s Office opted not to probe.