It's a serious crime -- but calls to remove the sheriff smack of political opportunism
If the mayor files official misconduct charges, and the Ethics Commission, by a supermajority, agrees, then the Board of Supervisors would serve in effect as a trial body, much as the U.S. Senate does in an impeachment case. Nine of the 11 supervisors would have to vote to permanently remove the sheriff from office.
If Lee takes that path, he'll be setting in motion a political process that was designed in the Charter for highly unusual situations and has only been used once in the past 40 years. (And in that case, involving Airport Commission member Joe Mazzola, a court later ruled that the charges, involving his role in plumbers' strike, didn't rise to the standard of official misconduct.) You have to ask: Is this case, and this misdemeanor charge, worthy of the exercise of what is, by any standard, an extraordinary power vested in the city's chief executive? Is it worth the political circus that would result from a trial by the supervisors (some of whom might well be asked to recuse themselves because of their prior relationships with Mirkarimi, making it almost impossible to reach the magic number of nine anyway)?
If the voters of San Francisco think the sheriff needs to go, there's the right of recall — and it will be available the first week in July, when Mirkarimi will have served six months. If there's not enough organized opposition to make that happen, he'll be facing the electorate again in three years (and trust us, he will be opposed and every details of these charges will be part of the campaign). He's going to pay for this far beyond his court-ordered probation and fine.
Whatever the plea deal, Mirkarimi was clearly involved in a bad conflict with his wife that turned physical. Unless the evidence we've seen so far is completely misleading, it's clear that he left her with a bruise — and that he was at the very least nasty and more likely emotionally abusive to her. Now that the legal case is over, he needs to come clean and tell the public exactly what happened that day, at which point we can all decide if we believe him, if he's shown that he's changed, and if the public is willing to give him a chance at redemption.
But Lee should think very seriously before he escalates this by filing misconduct charges. Since the ones who have the most to lose from that are the progressives on the board who are often Lee's foes, it will have the stench of political maneuvering — and at this point, nobody needs that. The mayor says he's a unifier; this would be the most divisive thing he could do.
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