Mayor vs. Mirkarimi

Rival politicians to take the witness stand in official misconduct hearings this week

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Mayor Ed Lee will testify on the morning June 29, following Ross Mirkarimi's testimony on the evening of June 28.
EXAMINER FILE PHOTOS

steve@sfbg.com

For all the lawyers, investigators, witnesses, politicians, and political appointees involved in Mayor Ed Lee's official misconduct case against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, this case is ultimately a battle between these two politicians, who come from rival ideological camps — and have a lot riding on the outcome of their clash.

And this week, both Mirkarimi and Lee are expected to take the witness stand and face tough questioning from each other's attorneys.

These first two rounds of live testimony before the Ethics Commission — which has been painstakingly setting up procedures for its inquiry, defining its scope, and making myriad rulings on what evidence and witnesses to allow — could be the emotional high point of hearings likely to drag on throughout the summer.

On June 28, after the commission finishes ruling on the admissibility of evidence — dealing mostly with the controversial testimony of Lee's star witness, Ivory Madison, the neighbor who triggered the police investigation that found Mirkarimi had grabbed his wife's arm during a Dec. 31 argument — Mirkarimi is expected to take the stand.

Given the tacks taken by each side so far, the deputy city attorneys representing Lee will likely try to ask Mirkarimi a broad array of questions about his actions and their wider implications, while his attorneys will seek to limit the line of inquiry to what they see as the narrow question of whether he committed specific acts of official misconduct.

"They're going to want to blast him with every single issue they can conjure up," said Mirkarimi attorney Shepherd Kopp. But he thinks the Ethics Commission "will limit it consistent with how they've been ruling on our objections," which has already greatly limited the case that Lee sought to present.

The next day, Lee is scheduled to take the stand, with Mirkarimi's attorneys planning to question the mayor about why he didn't conduct an investigation or seek more input from witnesses or former mayors before demanding Mirkarimi's resignation and suspending him without pay in March.

"The suspension was not done carefully with the best interests of the city at heart. It was a rash political decision that had little to do with the facts," Mirkarimi's other attorney, David Waggoner, told us.

Indeed, the city didn't begin gathering evidence until after the charges had been filed, and since then Lee and his team haven't been able to unearth much evidence in support of his most damning allegations that Mirkarimi tried to dissuade witnesses and thwart the police investigation, something that Mirkarimi and his attorneys have adamantly denied. In the absence of that evidence, Waggoner said Lee has stepped up his efforts to defame Mirkarimi publicly.

Lee told reporters on June 19 that he suspended Mirkarimi because he was "beating his wife," seeming to escalate the characterization of a single arm-grabbing incident. The city has also released the video that Madison made of Mirkarimi's wife tearfully recounting the incident and the couple's text messages, which made Mirkarimi look bad but don't offer much new information or evidence.

"He's panicking. The ship is going down and he's beginning to flail," Waggoner said of Lee's recent statements and actions. "The more the mayor uses that kind of rhetoric, the less credibility he has."

We sought responses and comments from the press secretaries for Lee and the City Attorney's Office, but both refused to comment for the record.

Ethics Commission Chair Benedict Hur has taken an increasingly strong role in running the hearings and limiting the ability of either side's attorney to control them. At the June 19 hearing, he cut off Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser at least twice when she tried to offer unsolicited comments, at one point causing her to get visibly agitated and declare, "I'm objecting to the procedures for objecting to evidence."

Comments

Are you seriously asking for help specific to your case on the sfbg comment board?
1) who cares about the specifics of your case
2) get a rope!

Posted by Greg on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

Gabriel Haaland has noted that this is an emotionally charged issue which has become highly politicized. He said, "people are often unwilling to forgive others, like Ross, because they are unwilling to forgive themselves for their own challenging impulses." There is a lot of truth in that statement. Still, Mirkarimi's actions and statements thus far "rest a bit on their hunger", as the French say. And I say this as a progressive who supports him in his struggle to keep his job.

Gabriel mentioned that (with all the media scrutiny) RM never had the opportunity to take full responsibility for his actions. I think he's quite right about that. Ross is primarily responsible for the situation he got himself into, no one else. While it's true that we (progressives) have enemies who are actively working to undermine us, it strikes me that that is a poor excuse. If you hand your enemy the stick to beat you with, you really have no one to blame but yourself. So Ross needs to stop fighting it, because it's not helping him. IMHO, we (progs) are not helping him in the least by grumbling about a political conspiracy to bring down the sheriff. It seems to me that the public has never had much patience with pols who appear to be passing the buck. And this perception has done more to hurt Ross than anything else.

But Ross may finally have the chance to take full responsibility for his actions during tomorrow's hearing. And for his own sake, I hope he does. (I'm just praying that he doesn't blow it.) This means that he should resist the temptation to blame others for his actions. Yes, progressives have enemies, but Ross is responsible for his own actions. No one else. He's the one who got himself in this situtation. His enemies didn't do that for him, even if they exploited it to the hilt. So he should not go in there claiming that there is some sort of political conspiracy against him or about the lack of justice of the process (although there is some truth to this). I just don't think San Franciscans are going to stand for that. He needs to face the fact that his problems were self-inflicted, and come clean about this. If he can do that, he might have a fighting chance of holding on to his job, as slim as it is. But he needs to impress people that he's sincere and not just strategizing to hold on to his position.

I believe in restorative justice so I wish Ross the very best outcome tomorrow. As Gabriel said, "Anyone who thinks that he or she is perfect or above this seriously needs a mirror.

Posted by lp on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

He's a uniin hack who will always have mindless kneejerk support for any liberal.

Worthless, biased analysis.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2012 @ 3:06 am

The issue is not whether someone is perfect or not, the issue is whether there is introspective feedback after error that cleans up past messes and better informs future choices.

While Gabriel has been talking a good game over the past few years, the truth remains that the circumstances of SEIU workers has deteriorated over the time that he's been political operative for the union.

"Nobody is perfect" is often used as a device to evade accountability for poor choices that, in this case, have negatively impacted tens of thousands of families.

I do not see how those negative outcomes are used to inform better choices in Gabriel's case, but since nobody's perfect, there cannot be a reckoning of these sorts of things.

Either we bake feedback and course correction into the progressive movement or the progressive movement continues to die a slow death.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 28, 2012 @ 6:14 am

it's not entirely fair to blame Gabe for that since the pressures on SEIU members to scale back their sweetheart deals have been so immense, that their decline was inevitable and, indeed, will continue for many years.

So one could argue that Gabe is doing a good job if he can merely manage the decline and make it happen a little mroe slowly. Doing a good job in a doomed war is merely making the battles last a little longer before surrendering.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2012 @ 6:29 am

Basically she's claiming Ivory Madison made all this up. She also lets on that her and Ross' marriage is over - saying "maybe I was not the right woman for him."

How pathetic. I seriously thought she would come back and stand by her husband but this statement is really the nail in her marriage's coffin. She's perjured herself and let on that she's never returning to SF - while slandering everyone else including all her former neighbors. What a bitch.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

could and is not demanding "payment" to come back.

She's already been caught in one lie, saying on video that Ross assaulted her more than once but then denying that more recently in a carefully-scripted "intereview".

Her testimony is tainted and worthless. She should stay in Caracas.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2012 @ 3:01 am

lp. Ross brought this on himself.

Eliana? Perhaps she should have stayed in Venezuela in the first place. Their child could have gotten to know his father through visits. But the boy is only three years old, young enough to repair the damage, and Eliana has time to recover from her horrendous adventure. I wish them both the best.

Sheriff Mirkarimi? He's known for a long time that he has problems. And now they have gotten the best of him. No time like the present to start the recovery process. No time to lose, no time to pass up a lesson on the virtue of humility. Be quiet, listen, hold your tongue, be humble and modest. We wish the sheriff the best also.

And to the Ethics Commission? We just ask that the process be fair.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

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