SF Supervisors Vote to Reinstate Mirkarimi

Suspended sheriff gets the three votes he needed, Tuesday night

Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012  |  Updated 12:50 AM PDT
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Ross Mirkarimi will be reinstated as San Francisco's sheriff after three members of the city's Board of Supervisors declined to uphold official misconduct charges against him.

Ross Mirkarimi will be reinstated as San Francisco's sheriff after three members of the city's Board of Supervisors declined to uphold official misconduct charges against him.

Ross Mirkarimi will be reinstated as San Francisco's sheriff after four of the city's Board of Supervisors voted against upholding official misconduct charges against him.

The 11-member board required nine votes to approve ousting Mirkarimi, but Christina Olague, David Campos, John Avalos and Jane Kim voted against removing Mirkarimi, for a final vote of 7-4.

The sheriff was suspended without pay by Mayor Ed Lee in March following his guilty plea to misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with a Dec. 31 incident in which he grabbed his wife's arm during an argument, causing a bruise.

"It's been a long and crazy road, not just for our family but the family of San Francisco," Mirkarimi said after the hearing.

"Now is a process of mending fences," he said, adding that he will be talking with the Sheriff's Department about returning to office as soon as Wednesday.

Avalos, the third member to say he would vote to reinstate Mirkarimi, said the city's case against him was "very convoluted from a legal point of view."

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd was one of the members who said he would vote in favor of removing Mirkarimi, saying the sheriff "violated that trust" given to top law enforcement officials.

The case was sent to the board by the city's Ethics Commission, which had been tasked with holding fact-finding hearings and making a recommendation in the case.

In August, the panel voted 4-1 in favor of upholding the charges, and commission chair Benedict Hur gave a presentation to the board today outlining what led to their vote.

Hur said the commission made its ruling on the basis of the physical abuse, which it found to fall below the standards of decency expected of an elected official as laid out in the official misconduct clause in the city charter.

Hur was the lone commissioner to vote against the majority, saying today that "there must be a line between official misconduct and personal misconduct" and that he thought there was not a close enough nexus between the case and Mirkarimi's duties as sheriff.

Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser, representing the mayor, told the supervisors that the fact that the sheriff oversees domestic violence programs and works with the city's probation department conflicts with his being sentenced to a year of domestic violence counseling and three years' probation as part of his plea deal.

Under questioning from some of the supervisors, Kaiser acknowledged that suspending the sheriff was "a discretionary decision" and "at bottom a judgment call," but that law enforcement officers "are expected to enforce the law, not to break it."

Mirkarimi's attorney David Waggoner criticized the mayor and city attorney's office during his presentation to the board, accusing them of "inflammatory, prejudicial rhetoric."

Waggoner said Mirkarimi "took responsibility for the terrible mistake he made," but "the punishment does not fit the crime."

Another of Mirkarimi's attorneys, Shepard Kopp, said that the attorneys had planned to fight the removal in court if it had gone into effect.

Hundreds of people came to City Hall for the hours-long hearing, forcing authorities to open multiple overflow rooms to accommodate the crowds.

A majority of the speakers who talked to the board during the public comment portion of the proceedings supported Mirkarimi, including former Mayor Art Agnos.

"This case is about unprecedented mayoral power," Agnos said.

"I know extraordinary power," he said, citing extreme measures he took to ensure safety after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, "but I never had this type of power and no one should."

Many supporters gathered outside City Hall for a rally prior to today's hearing while domestic violence victim advocates held a separate rally on Monday opposing the sheriff and saying that allowing him to remain in office would be a blow to their community.

Mirkarimi served on the Board of Supervisors for seven years prior to being elected sheriff last November and taking office in January.

The mayor appointed Vicki Hennessy, a former chief deputy, to serve as interim sheriff after suspending Mirkarimi.

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