Suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told the city’s Ethics Commission Firday that he believes he should have a second chance at his job, while Mayor Ed Lee said he thinks Mirkarimi doesn’t deserve it.
Mirkarimi, who is fighting for reinstatement in office, and Lee, who suspended him and is seeking his permanent ouster, both testified at an administrative hearing before the commission today.
The mayor contends Mirkarimi is not qualified for office because of a Dec. 31 incident in which he bruised the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez, during an argument. Mirkarimi pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment.
The commission has been tasked with conducting an inquiry and making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors as to whether Mirkarimi should be permanently removed from his job. It would take a vote of nine of 11 supervisors to dismiss him from office.
During today’s testimony, Mirkarimi’s lawyer, David Waggoner, asked him whether he could be effective if reinstated as sheriff.
Mirkarimi said he could be and suggested he could serve as a model of personal redemption.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a model of that personal redemption,” he said.
Later in the day, when Lee took the stand, Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser asked him “Do you think you should show power of redemption by giving Mr. Mirkarimi a second chance?”
Lee answered, “I came to the conclusion of official misconduct because I believed the actions that were admitted to and the crime that was perpetrated has to have direct consequences.
“I believe the direct consequence is that a person convicted of domestic violence cannot be sheriff of the city,” Lee said.
In earlier testimony before the commission on Thursday evening, Mirkarimi acknowledged that he bruised Lopez’s arm and agreed that it was a violent act, which he said he “regrets terribly.”
The commission will resume hearings on July 18 with testimony from Lopez and from Linnette Peralta Haynes, Mirkarimi’s campaign manager. It has not yet been determined whether Lopez, who is now in Venezuela with the couple’s 3-year-old son, will testify in person or by video.
Other witnesses have testified via written declarations, including Ivory Madison, a neighbor who reported the bruise to police on Jan. 4.
Both sides are due to submit proposed findings of fact to the five-member commission by Aug. 10. Commission Chairman Benedict Hur said he expects to hold a final hearing in mid-August, at which attorneys will make brief closing arguments and the commission will deliberate and decide on its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
In other testimony today, Mirkarimi said he regrets having said at a news conference after his inauguration on Jan. 8 that the incident with Lopez was “a private matter, a family matter.”
“I made a terrible mistake in saying that. Naturally I completely regret it,” Mirkarimi said under questioning from Waggoner.
Earlier, Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith had asked him, “Is domestic violence a private, family matter?”
“It is not,” Mirkarimi said.
Mirkarimi also acknowledged, in answer to questions from Keith, that he was aware when he made the statement that he had injured his wife. He agreed that calling domestic violence a private matter sends a negative message to law enforcement and to victims.
After his guilty plea, Mirkarimi was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to undergo a year of domestic violence counseling.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News