Mirkarimi, Ed Lee Testify at Ethics Hearing
(AP) SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee says he would find it “extremely difficult” to work with suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi if Mirkarimi is able to get his job back.
Lee made the remarks Friday while testifying before the city’s Ethics Commission. The five-member panel has convened a trial-like hearing to determine whether to recommend Mirkarimi’s removal from office.
Lee cited Mirkarimi with misconduct and suspended him without pay in March, shortly after the sheriff pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment for bruising his wife’s arm during a New Year’s Eve dispute.
Lee testified that he suspended Mirkarimi because of the significance of the role of sheriff as one of the top law enforcement positions in the city.
A city attorney grilled San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on Friday about his conversations with his wife and campaign manager days after he bruised his wife’s arm in an alleged domestic violence incident.
It was Mirkarimi’s second day testifying before the city’s ethics commission, which is weighing his fitness for office. The panel also began hearing from Mayor Ed Lee, who suspended Mirkarimi without pay in March.
City officials allege that the sheriff directed his wife, Eliana Lopez, and campaign manager, Linnette Peralta Haynes, to dissuade a neighbor from talking about the incident.
The neighbor, Ivory Madison, had recorded a video of a tearful Lopez discussing the alleged abuse. She later turned the video over to police.
Mirkarimi, under questioning from Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith, said Friday that he remembered telling his wife after learning police were investigating the incident that she’d have to follow through with the process and couldn’t “unring the bell.”
Mirkarimi’s woes began on the afternoon of Dec. 31 when he and his wife became involved in an argument over whether she could travel to her native Venezuela with their 3-year-old son.
Mirkarimi admitted bruising her arm with an overly firm grip. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment, and other misdemeanor charges were dropped. Mirkarimi was sentenced to probation and counseling.
The sheriff told the commission that in hindsight he wishes that he had a better strategy to deal with the media and subsequent fallout from his actions.
“It was an overwhelming event and continued to be an overwhelming event in the way I was branded,” Mirkarimi said. “I was sad, humiliated. I lost my family.”
The commission adjourned the hearing soon after Lee began testifying. Police had received a threat to City Hall, said Susan Fahey, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.
Lee resumed testifying a short time later.
This is the first time the five-member ethics panel has convened a trial-like hearing to determine whether an elected official should be removed from office. It will forward its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which needs the votes of nine of 11 members to remove Mirkarimi.
The hearing is back on after about an hour delay due to an unspecified security threat. Mayor Ed Lee has finished testifying, and San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, “who has served as an expert witness on dozens of cases involving police management and policy,” according to the Chronicle, is now on the stand. In a nutshell, he thinks Mirkarimi should be ousted.
commission chairman: “there was a security threat that has now been found not to be credible” #mirkarimi
— Josh Richman (@Josh_Richman) June 29, 2012
Commission staff says sheriff’s deputies told them to immediately adjourn #Mirkarimi hearing, no word on if there was a security risk
— Josh Richman (@Josh_Richman) June 29, 2012
Update 2: The hearing was abruptly adjourned, in the middle of a question to Ed Lee, by Chairman Benedict Hur. Pretty odd…
Update: Mirkarimi has finished testifying before the Ethics Commission. Ed Lee is now testifying.
The Bay Area News Group’s Josh Richman is covering the hearing, and you can read his tweets in chronological order here.
If you really, really want to…and God knows, you may not…here’s the link to watch Ross Mirkarimi’s testimony before the Ethics Commission today
Bay Area News Group journalist Josh Richman is live-blogging here.
Ed Lee, who filed the charge against Mirkarimi, is scheduled to testify later in the day.
The questioning of Mirkarimi this morning centers on phone calls and text messages among himself, Lopez and his campaign manager, Linette Peralta Haynes. Lee’s misconduct charge alleges Mirkarimi and Peralta Haynes conspired to dissuade Lopez and Madison from reporting the violent episode to police. The mayor is seeking to remove Mirkarimi from office permanently. The ethics panel will forward a recommendation on that to the Board of Supervisors, which must vote unanimously for removal if the sheriff is to lose his job.
For the complete set of Mirkarimi ethics panel videos — here you go. This includes yesterday’s hearing, at which the suspended San Francisco sheriff attempted to defend himself . From the Chronicle’s report on that session:
Suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi testified Thursday that he committed a violent act against his wife, and that such conduct falls below official standards of his staff and reflects adversely on the department.
But he also told the city’s Ethics Commission that he believes in the power of redemption, as he fights to save his job.
“I think that the sheriff is the leader of the department and should lead by example, and if that also means that the sheriff can demonstrate redeeming behavior, then the sheriff, I think, or some of their employees, may have that possibility, too,” Mirkarimi testified under oath at his official misconduct hearing. Full article
Here’s Josh Richman’s take:
Embattled Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi began his calm, controlled, somewhat contrite testimony Thursday night before the city’s Ethics Commission, which will recommend whether or not he should be kicked out of office.
“I grabbed my wife’s arm and bruised it, that is an act of violence, something I regret terribly,” Mirkarimi said. “It wasn’t my intention, but I did it and I accept full responsibility. … I reacted intensely to a quarrel and I regret the way that I reacted.”
The mayor’s misconduct filing stems from, as you no doubt have heard by now, Mirkarimi’s guilty plea to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge in connection with a heated fight he had with his wife, Eliana Lopez, on New Year’s Eve, not long after he had won election as sheriff. Mirkarimi bruised her arm during the conflict, an injury both he and Lopez say occurred in their car. Mirkarimi described the incident on KQED Public Radio’s Forum program on April 18:
So as she was getting out of her passenger seat to unharness our son, who is nearly three, he was panicked, you could see the panic, and she was screaming and I reached over from the driver’s seat – still with my seatbelt on, to put my hand underneath her arm to try to guide her back into the passenger seat so we could just de-escalate this and talk this through.
It was when I put my hand underneath her arm that she got bruised, in that process. I was instinctively just inserting myself because I saw my wife upset in a way I hadn’t seen her upset, my son was just…
However, Ivory Madison, Mirkarimi and Lopez’s neighbor who at Lopez’s request recorded a short video of Lopez displaying her bruise, said in written testimony that Lopez told her she had been subjected to physical abuse by Mirkarimi over a longer period of time that night. From a Chronicle report:
“Eliana told me that the verbal abuse continued in the house and escalated to physical abuse, and that both went on for some time. … During that time, she said that Ross repeatedly grabbed, pulled and pushed her violently,” Madison stated. “Specifically, she said he slammed her against a wall while grabbing her arm and refused to let go.”
Before the plea deal, Mirkarimi had been charged with one misdemeanor count each of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness.