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Mayor Lee to File Official Misconduct Charges, Appoints Vicki Hennessy as Interim Sheriff

| March 20, 2012
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Mayor Ed Lee (center) announces that he will file misconduct charges against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and appoints Vicki Hennessy (left) as interim sheriff. (Mina Kim/KQED)

Mayor Ed Lee (center) announces that he will file misconduct charges against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and appointed Vicki Hennessy (left) as interim sheriff. (Mina Kim/KQED)

Update 5:01 p.m.Mayor Ed Lee announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that he will serve Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi with misconduct charges Wednesday morning.

“He has chosen not to resign and now I must act,” said Lee. “As public officials our first responsibility must always be to fulfill the obligations entrusted to us by the people of San Francisco, and we must always be held to the highest ethical and legal standards. Sheriff Mirkarimi’s actions and confession of guilt clearly falls below these standards of decency and good faith rightly required of all public officials.”

The official misconduct charges force an investigation by the city’s Ethics Commission, and the sheriff’s immediate suspension.

At the press conference Lee appointed Vicki Hennessy as interim sheriff. Hennessy is the former director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management and a former chief deputy in the Sheriff’s Department.

The city’s charter broadly defines official misconduct, says Corey Cook, Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good ans associate professor at the University of San Francisco.

“It very explicitly includes things that do not have to do with one’s conduct as an official, ethics and moral charges are part of the conduct,” says Cook.

While the first steps of a misconduct hearing are well defined in the city charter, what role the Ethics Commission plays is unclear, says Cook. The city charter does not define what the commission does once it has heard the case. In any case, nine out of 11 Supervisors would have to vote to oust Mirkarimi.

Update 4:31 p.m. At a press conference Mirkarimi announced that he will not resign: “I believe that I am still very able to be the sheriff of San Francisco and at this time I do not plan to resign.”

Mirkarimi said that his behavior does not constitute “official misconduct,” and that he looks forward to making his case before the city’s Ethics Commission.

“I feel that we’re even more prepared,” said Mirkarimi. “I look forward to that process, because if you keep in mind, I still have never told our story.”

Update 3:40 p.m. Mirkarimi’s lawyer Lidia Stiglich told the AP that he will not resign. Mirkarimi will make a statement in 30 minutes.

Update 1:03 p.m. The clock is ticking on Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

The Chronicle and other news orgs are reporting that Mayor Ed Lee has given Mirkarimi until 4 p.m. to resign (Update: Rachel Gordon at the Chron now says 5 p.m.) or face an official misconduct charge resulting in an immediate suspension. That could be followed by an attempt to remove him from office through a tortured city administrative process applicable to accused ethics violators.

KCBS’s Doug Sovern is tweeting that Mirkarimi will respond “shortly” to the mayor’s ultimatum.

Earlier today, all San Francisco hell broke loose as Mikarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, no-showed at her scheduled presser, with her attorney Paula Canny speaking in her place just as news of Lee’s ultimatum was breaking all around.

Canny said the reason her client didn’t show was because of the “disconcerting nature” of an editorial that appeared in the Chronicle today by Abraham Mertens, Ivory Madison’s husband. In the piece, Mertens accused Lopez of illegal conduct in the form of Lopez’s trying to get her to destroy evidence. Canny says Lopez denies those accusations and has retained an additional attorney.

Canny said she herself has retained an attorney as well. She said she has received a cease and desist letter from Madison’s lawyers asking for Canny to retract the arguments she made in court asserting that communications between Lopez and Madison were subject to attorney-client privilege, motions that were denied.

Canny also questioned the legality under which Lee can invoke the city administrative process to have Mirkarimi removed.

Lee is expected to make an announcement about all — or some — of this in the late afternoon.

Update 2:20 p.m. This analysis by SF Weekly’s Joe Eskenazi says Mirkarimi shouldn’t count on support from fellow progressives should he decide to duke it out with Lee:

Our messages for the sheriff have not yet been returned. But if he’s looking for support from progressive stalwarts, he’s not going to get it. Former Board President and current county Democratic Party chairman Aaron Peskin refused to comment on Mirkarimi’s plight. But he did say that if the sheriff didn’t resign by end of business today Peskin would be putting out a statement on the matter.

It stands to reason that this statement would be a call for Mirkarimi to cut his losses and step aside.

SF Weekly contacted several city progressive movers and shakers. None felt Mirkarimi would be doing anyone any good by sticking around. He’s not helping himself, and he’s not helping progressives. If Supervisors Eric Mar, John Avalos, and David Campos were politically unambitious or termed out, that’d be one thing. But they’re not, and they’re not — and domestic violence groups are putting up anti-Mirkarimi billboards, in Spanish, in Campos’ district.

KQED’s Ian Hill is watching the Mirkarimi Twitter coverage and posting the best stuff below. Click on the play button to activate the feed…

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Category: Law and Justice, Politics and Government

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  • Carpetbeast47

    If Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane cant be on the up and up, then he should face a worse penalty than normal people. I am sick and tired of officials getting a slap on the wrist instead of facing incarceration like everybody else.

  • Karlnroche

    This guy is a scum bag and an abuser. The sad thing is the Board of Supes won’t convict one of their own.