Mirkarimi is asked to resign, but recall is on hold

Activists who had discussed a recall of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who was convicted earlier this year of a domestic violence-related crime, instead have launched a website to gather petition signatures urging him to resign.

Fat chance.

Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi early this year after he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment related to a New Year’s Eve altercation that left a bruise on the arm of his wife, Venezuelan former telenovela star Eliana Lopez.

Mirkarimi spent much of 2012 fighting Lee’s effort to permanently remove him from office, through a lengthy series of San Francisco Ethics Commission hearings. The commission ultimately voted 4-1 that he had committed official misconduct, but four members of the Board of Supervisors voted October 9 to reinstate him. (Removing him would’ve required nine votes from the 11-member board.) After fighting that fight, it’s unlikely a petition will convince him to quit.

Nonetheless, political consultant Andrea Shorter today unveiled a website at which San Franciscans can add their names to a call for the sheriff to step down voluntarily.

Shorter, a member of the city’s Commission on the Status of Women since 2001 and a longtime advocate for women’s issues, last month had been talking about a recall campaign, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and require organizers to support from more than 50,000 San Franciscans in order to get on the ballot.

Though the website sets a goal of 50,000 petition signatures, Shorter made it clear Wednesday that this is merely a means of building and gauging support, and not yet an actual recall effort.

“We’re interested in him hearing clearly what the interests are of San Franciscans right now,” she told reporters on a conference call, specifying that many city residents believe it’s inappropriate for someone who’s on criminal probation to lead a law enforcement agency. “Maybe he will heed that particular call, we will know in due time.”

Shorter had spoken at the Aug. 16 session of the San Francisco Ethics Commission’s hearing, calling for Mirkarimi’s removal. “This is an issue of governance, this is an issue of public turst and our ability as a city to make sure we provide every single citizen the utmost trust and confidence in all of our officials,” she said at the time:


No taxpayer-funded lawyers for Ross Mirkarimi

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today rejected embattled Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s request that taxpayers foot the bill for lawyers he hired to defend himself against an attempt to boot him from office for official misconduct – having bruised his wife in an argument.

Mirkarimi sent a letter to Herrera dated May 15 but received just this Tuesday citing a San Francisco Charter section dealing with elected officers’ and department heads’ right to engage outside counsel in instances when the city attorney’s office has a conflict of interests.

The city attorney’s office has erected a “screen” to separate lawyers representing Mayor Ed Lee from those advising the Ethics Commission or Board of Supervisors in Mirkarimi’s misconduct hearing, the sheriff wrote, but has not carved out anyone to represent him.

“Moreover, the actions of your office thus far in these proceedings demonstrate that neither you nor anyone in your office could ethically represent me,” Mirkarimi wrote. “Without cataloging every action you have taken, suffice it to say you chose to represent the Mayor in derogation of your equally compelling legal duty to represent me.”

Not so, Herrera responded today in a letter to Mirkarimi’s lawyers.

The charter section Mirkarimi cited doesn’t apply here, in that it doesn’t require the city to provide personal representation to suspended city officers, Herrera wrote; rather, it makes clear that the city attorney’s client is the city and county, not individual elected officials. “There is simply no basis for your client’s demand for City funded representation.”

“Contrary to your client’s implication, this proceeding is not a private dispute between the Mayor and the Sheriff,” he wrote, citing a Superior Court’s recent ruling. “As the court recognized, the City Attorney’s Office represents the Mayor’s Office in the pending official misconduct proceedings, just as we continue to represent and advise the Sheriff’s Office regarding City business. This office has no conflict of interest here.”

“(T)he City does not pay for private counsel to represent employees charged with misconduct,” he concluded. “Your client’s position as an elected official is no different and does not entitle him to that personal benefit at taxpayer expense.”

Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi, 50, after he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment related to a New Year’s Eve altercation that left a bruise on the arm of his wife, Venezuelan former telenovela star Eliana Lopez. If the Ethics Commission upholds the charges, it would take a vote of nine of 11 city and county supervisors to toss him from office.


See the Eliana Lopez/Ross Mirkarimi video

The San Francisco City Attorney’s office, pursuing Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s removal from office in an ongoing administrative misconduct hearing, today released a video in which Mirkarimi’s wife shows a neighbor a bruise that resulted from their New Year’s Eve argument.

Mirkarimi was quick to condemn the video’s public release. “The release of the video utterly violates my wife’s rights and serves no public good. It is the politics of destruction at its worst, and those who advocated its release should be ashamed.”

His wife, former Venezuelan telenovela star Eliana Lopez, said likewise:

“I am sad and hurt by the elected officials of the city of San Francisco: Mayor Lee, City Attorney Herrera, District Attorney Gascon and Judge Wong. They each have contributed to the release of the video against my wishes and allowed it to go viral. Because of their actions the images on that video will exist forever for anyone to see – including my son Theo, now and forever. My grandchildren will see the video, as well as my great grandchildren. I believe what Judge Wong, the District Attorney, the City Attorney and Mayor Lee have done to me is far worse than anything they accuse Ross of doing. I hope they realize after reflection that what they have done is irreparable and perpetually damaging to me and my family.”

Herrera told NBC Bay Area he had “no position” on the release of the video, but California law did not allow him to withhold it. The couple’s lawyers failed to convince the city’s Ethics Commission to keep it under wraps.


SF Mayor files brief, witness list in Mirkarimi case

San Francisco’s mayor and city attorney have fired their opening salvo of documents in the pending Ethics Commission hearing against embattled, suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

Mirkarimi greets a supporter at SF Ethics Commission hearing 4-23-12Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi, 50, after he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment related to a New Year’s Eve altercation that left a bruise on the arm of his wife, Venezuelan former telenovela star Eliana Lopez. Lee and City Attorney Dennis Herrera will be trading briefs with Mirkarimi’s lawyers in the coming weeks to set the stage for testimony on whether the sheriff should lose his job permanently; if the commission upholds the charges, it would take a vote of nine of 11 city and county supervisors to toss him from office.

The city’s 34-page opening brief outlines the official misconduct charges against Mirkarimi, alleging that he committed domestic violence, threatened to use his power as a public official against his wife in family court, took part in efforts to dissuade witnesses and destroy evidence, and so on. It lays out the city’s views on what standard of proof should apply, what kind of evidence the commission should rely upon, whether Mirkarimi can be held responsible for official misconduct that occurred before he was sworn in, whether the commission must act unanimously, and so on.

“While Sheriff Mirkarimi has contended elsewhere that these proceedings somehow undermine the democratic process, nothing could be further from the truth,” Deputy City Attorney Sherri Sokeland Kaiser wrote in the brief.

“When San Francisco voters democratically elected Sheriff Mirkarimi, they did not know and could not know that he would later engage in the behavior that led to these official misconduct proceedings,” she wrote. “That very problem is the reason why San Francisco voters democratically enacted the Charter removal provisions. The Ethics Commission advances democratic rule and fulfills its Charter mandate by following the removal process democratically established by the People themselves.”

But this isn’t a criminal court proceeding, Kaiser cautioned.

“The Mayor is seeking to remove Sheriff Mirkarimi from his office, not punish him or impose any criminal sanction,” Kaiser wrote. “Neither the Charter nor any other law requires the Commission to adopt a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof or to make its recommendation by unanimous vote. The Charter simply requires the Commission to hold a hearing, compile a record, and vote to make a recommendation as to whether to sustain the charges against Sheriff Mirkarimi.”

A separate, eight-page letter re-asserts that Mirkarimi has a duty under the city’s Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code and other ethics laws to cooperate with the city attorney’s investigation of his conduct, and like anyone else, must also comply with mayoral subpoenas. It also clarifies that the commission doesn’t take part in the mayor’s and city attorney’s investigation, but rather lets them serve as prosecutor while it acts as judge.

The city’s initial witness list includes Mayor Ed Lee; the two police inspectors who investigating Mirkarimi’s domestic violence case; retired Undersheriff Jan Dempsey and former Sheriff Michael Hennessey, to talk about the transition period from Mirkarimi’s November election through his Jan. 8 swearing-in; Christina Flores, Mirkarimi’s former girlfriend, who gave sworn court testimony about a previous domestic-violence incident; Eliana Lopez, Mirkarimi’s wife; Ivory Madison, the neighbor who photographed Lopez’ bruised arm and informed police; Linnette Peralta Haynes, Mirkarimi’s campaign manager, who allegedly asked Madison and Lopez not to tell police; Callie Williams, another of the Mirkarimis’ neighbors, who overheard other arguments; and others.


Charges filed against Ed Lee’s contributors

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon today said he’s filing misdemeanor criminal charges against an airport passenger shuttle company that he says illegally funneled contributions to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign last year.

Lorrie’s Travel & Tours Inc., better known as GO Lorrie’s, is among the larger shuttle companies serving San Francisco International Airport. Gascon said the company made $11,500 in illegal contributions to Lee’s campaign by passing the money through its drivers and staff; also charged are company general manager Jason Perez, 40, of San Mateo, and Hanan Qutami, 56, of South San Francisco.

“Campaign finance and disclosure laws help to ensure fairness and transparency in our elections, and my office takes the violation of these laws very seriously,” Gascon said in a news release. “After a thorough investigation, we have found clear evidence to charge Go Lorrie’s and two of its employees with making illegal campaign contributions.”

The situation was highlighted by Lee’s rivals during last year’s campaign, but it wasn’t enough to derail Lee’s candidacy. His campaign returned the contributions soon after questions were first raised.

Perez allegedly solicited 23 GO Lorrie drivers, dispatchers, administrators and their spouses to each write a $500 personal check to the Ed Lee for Mayor campaign, and later kept his promise that the company would reimburse them.

Each of the defendants is charged with 23 counts of violating state Government Code section 84301 (making a campaign contribution in a name other than the true name of the contributor). Each also is charged with one count of violating San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code section 1.114(a) (contributing over $500 to a campaign committee in a municipal election) and one count of violating section 1.114(b) (making a campaign contribution by a corporation in a municipal election).

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: “The Mayor appreciates the thorough investigation conducted by the District Attorney, and his campaign assisted and aided this investigation at the time,” says Christine Falvey, Lee’s communications director. “The individuals indicted today were not associated in any way with the campaign and the mayor fully expects anyone who breaks the law to be held fully accountable.”

UPDATE @ 6:43 P.M.: Click here to read the Bay Citizen story that sparked the investigation.


Mirkarimi arrest affidavit details abuse claims

Here is the San Francisco Police affidavit connected to the warrant for San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s arrest last Friday for alleged domestic violence against his wife, Venezuelan former telenovela star Eliana Lopez.

Mirkarimi is charged with three misdemeanor counts: domestic violence; abusing or endangering the health of a child; and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. If convicted of all of them, he could face up to a year in jail and three years of probation plus mandatory weekly counseling and loss of his right to carry a gun; although it would take a felony conviction to automatically boot him from office, these convictions almost surely would end his career.

He’s scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow afternoon in San Francisco Superior Court.

The affidavit’s revelations start on page 6, with Inspector Richard Daniele describing the video that Mirkarimi’s neighbor shot of Lopez’ bruised arm:

We reviewed the video and it showed the victim crying and pointing to her right arm pointing out a bruise on the area of her right bicep. The victim stated “This happened yesterday. Two times in 2011 and this is the second time this is happening. I told Ross I want to work on the marriage, we need help, I been telling him we need help and I’m going to use this just in case he wants to take Theo away from me because he did said that he is very powerful and can do it.”

I contacted the victim on January 5, 2012 by telephone. The victim told me she was very well and doing fine but declined an interview and asked me to speak to her attorney, Cheryl Wallace. I contacted Ms. Wallace by telephone, I left a message for Ms. Wallace. Ms. Wallace phoned me back and told me she wasn’t going to let the victim talk to me.

The affidavit also says Robert Waggener, Mirkarimi’s attorney, refused to let police interview Mirkarimi. Police instead went back to the neighbor who had reported the incident.

During this interview it was stated by the reportee that the victim told her on Decemeber 31, 2011, she, her son and Ross Mirkarimi were traveling to a restaurant for lunch. While driving to the restaurant the victim asked Ross Mirkarimi if it would be okay after the Inauguration if she went to visit her family in Venezuela. The victim stated Ross Mirkarimi started to scream “f— you, f— you, you are trying to take Theo away from me.” The victim stated Ross Mirkarimi turned the car around and said he wasn’t taking them to eat. The victim stated Ross Mirkarimi stated something to the effect that she didn’t deserve to east. The reportee asked the victim if this was done in front of Theo. The victim stated Theo was sitting in the backseat while Ross Mirkarimi [sic] telling her that she was trying to take Theo away from him and said “f— you.”

The reportee stated the victim told her that she, Theo and Ross Mirkarimi arrived home and went inside. The fight continued and became louder and Ross Mirkarimi continued to be verbally abusive and physically abusive. The victim told reportee that the incident involved “pushing, pulling and grabbing” by Ross Mirkarimi. The victim told reportee that their son was present during this altercation and victim was telling Ross Mirkarimi, “look what this is doing to our son, look what you are doing to our son, please stop.”

Another neighbor told police Lopez had told her Mirkarimi had been physically abusive to her last March; can sometimes hear “mumbling” and “fighting” from the Mirkarimi-Lopez residence, although nothing that made her fear for the wife and son; and recalled hearing Mirkarimi at one point in the past year yell “Get the f— out!”