A deputy city attorney argued today that suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi should be ousted from office because his domestic violence conviction for false imprisonment puts his department in “an intolerable situation.”
Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith began his closing argument in the final Ethics Commission hearing on the matter today by saying “the nature of his crime was troubling,” especially considering Mirkarimi’s position as sheriff.
“The facts are not very difficult to understand in this case,” Keith said. “The legal basis for removal is met here.”
Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay for official misconduct in March following his conviction for a Dec. 31 incident in which he grabbed and bruised the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez, during an argument.
Mirkarimi came into today’s hearing with Lopez, who has testified before the commission on his behalf, and his mother, Nancy Kolman Ventrone, who traveled to San Francisco from Rhode Island to attend the hearing.
Lopez said she and the couple’s young son Theo, who had been staying in Lopez’s native Venezuela recently, are back in town for the foreseeable future.
This morning’s hearing was packed with Mirkarimi’s supporters, who lined up in the hallway to address the commission during the public comment period. The crowd also included a handful of Mirkarimi opponents.
The sheriff has been fighting his suspension before the city’s Ethics Commission, which heard closing arguments from both the city attorney’s office, which is representing the mayor, and Mirkarimi’s attorneys this morning.
The commission is expected to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors later today on whether Mirkarimi should be permanently removed from office.
In his closing argument this morning, Mirkarimi’s attorney David Waggoner cited two previous instances in which a San Francisco elected official has been suspended for misconduct.
Waggoner said Public Defender Frank Egan was suspended after being indicted for murder in 1932, and also highlighted the case of Supervisor Ed Jew, who was suspended by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2007 as he faced extortion and perjury charges.
Both of those cases involved “serious felonies” that led to prison time for Egan and Jew, while Mirkarimi’s offense was a low-level misdemeanor that resulted in no jail time, Waggoner said.
“The facts could not be more different,” he said.
Mirkarimi was sentenced to three years’ probation and other penalties in his criminal case.
Commissioner Paul Renne indicated that the panel’s recommendation will take into account two factors–whether Mirkarimi’s actions constitute official misconduct, and whether that misconduct rises to a level that requires his removal from office.
The recommendation will come after what is expected to be hours of public comment today from supporters and opponents of Mirkarimi. Both sides planned to hold rallies outside City Hall during the lunch break in the hearing.
If the Ethics Commission recommends removing Mirkarimi from office, nine of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors will have to approve his ouster. Mirkarimi served on the board for seven years before being elected sheriff last November and taking office in January.
The mayor has appointed Vicki Hennessy, a former chief deputy sheriff, to serve as interim sheriff while the case plays out.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News