The San Francisco Ethics Commission Monday night decided a framework with which to move forward with an official misconduct hearing for Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.
Mirkarimi last month pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment in connection with a Dec. 31 incident in which he grabbed his wife’s arm during an argument, causing a bruise.
Mayor Ed Lee officially suspended Mirkarimi without pay on March 21.
The five-member Ethics Commission is responsible for making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether or not Mirkarimi should keep his job.
Before entering the hearing room at City Hall where the commission was about to meet Monday evening, Mirkarimi said the whole experience had been “completely surreal,” and said he had faith that the commission would find a fair way of proceeding into “uncharted territory.”
“It’s been a nightmare,” Mirkarimi said. “I hope that a fair and just protocol is established because this has never been done before.”
With a focus on avoiding a long and arduous hearing process, commission chairman Benedict Hur said he wanted to establish a process that moved forward as quickly as possible while being fair to both sides.
“My number one goal here is to set this up in a way that is fair to both sides, and get it done in the most expeditious fashion,” he said.
Over the next four weeks, the city attorney’s office will provide a list of witnesses to the commission whose testimony would be key to proving that the sheriff is guilty of misconduct and should be permanently removed from office.
City attorneys will also file a legal brief of no more than 35 pages addressing legal issues pertaining to conducting the ethics hearing itself, such as what types of evidence would be admissible.
Attorneys representing Mirkarimi will likewise prepare a list of factual and expert witnesses that could potentially testify on his behalf during the misconduct hearing.
Both the sheriff and his wife, Eliana Lopez, were mentioned as witnesses who would likely testify.
The sheriff’s attorneys would also be asked to prepare a legal brief of no more that 35 pages addressing legal issues pertaining to the ethics hearing, and responding to the brief filed by the city attorney’s office.
The commission is expected to decide by May 29 whether to hold a hearing that requires live testimony from witnesses from both sides, or if a recommendation could be made to the Board of Supervisors using only written testimony and documentary evidence.
Dozens of San Francisco residents packed the hearing room and addressed the commissioners in support of Mirkarimi, some of them pleading for the commission to expedite its proceedings in order to get Mirkarimi back with his family and back to work.
Pedro Fernandez said he was “miffed” that Mirkarimi was suspended without pay and suggested the sheriff had been targeted by the mayor’s office.
“I think this is a political witch hunt,” Fernandez said. “You should be considering misconduct proceedings against the mayor.”
Mirkarimi said after the hearing that he was happy to see so many speakers show up on his behalf.
“It was wonderful to see so many people come out,” he said. “I really didn’t know what to expect.”
Chris Cooney, Bay City News