After months of discussion and faulty charges, the case against Ross Mirkarimi comes down to the initial act — and how broadly to define 'official misconduct'
16, with each speaker strictly limited to less than two minutes each, speakers overwhelmingly favored Mirkarimi and condemned the city case as overkill.
"Some of the things done in this case, and the levels this has gone to, is outrageous," said Brenda Barros, who works in the city's public health clinic and said these resources could be better applied to help the "seriously abused women" she works with. Barros called the city's case "a political witch hunt."
"I think Mayor Lee has overstepped his boundaries and I think you should find that as well," said Pedro Fernandez, a private investigator and former San Francisco Police officer.
David Elliott Lewis, a member of the city's Mental Health Board, noted that the Sheriff's Department has no civilian oversight, making the role of an elected sheriff who is progressive and independent of the city's good-old-boy police culture all the more important. "Those who claim otherwise are really politically motivated," he said.
One issue left unresolved by the Ethics Commission is whether Mirkarimi should be removed even though the case against him was substantially whittled down. In fact, several commissioners indicated during the hearing that they thought the findings and punishment were separate issues.
"Do you agree that it is a two-step process we have to deal with?" Renne asked Keith, referring to the official misconduct finding and whether Lee abused his discretion by removing Mirkarimi.
"There is a determination of, are the consequences appropriate to the wrongful action," Keith replied.
But later, when attorney Scott Emblidge who is volunteering his legal services to both the Ethics Commission and Board of Supervisors on this case offered his interpretation that the charter language requires removal of officials found to have committed official misconduct, the commission accepted that and opted not to consider recommending a lesser punishment to the Board of Supervisors.
Mirkarimi's team objected to the commission's rewriting of new charges based on its evidentiary findings, and things got so confusing by the end that the commission decided to meet one more time in early September to finalize its recommendation.
So the case probably won't get to the board until mid-September. Nine votes are required to remove Mirkarimi and the charter requires the board act within 30 days, meaning that final vote will be just a few weeks before the Nov. 6 election, timing that will only increase perceptions that politics will largely determine its outcome.