Mayor Lee ousts Sheriff Mirkarimi

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Mayor Lee makes the announcement, flanked interim Sheriff Vicki Hennessy and City Attorney Dennis Herrera
Luke Thomas

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee temporarily removed Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office today over a domestic violence case, dragging this long and sordid saga into the summer as city officials prepare a rare official misconduct hearing.

The brief announcement came just minutes after a 24-hour deadline Lee had set for Mirkarimi to resign or be removed. Lee took no questions from the huge crowd of journalists that had packed into his office and offered scant explanations about why he believes the process is warranted and how it will affect the city.

Standing behind Lee were City Attorney Dennis Herrera, with whom Lee had consulted on the decision, and Vicki Hennessy, a retired chief deputy from the Sheriff’s Department who Lee named interim sheriff. Shortly before the announcement, Mirkarimi told reporters he had no intention of resigning.

“He has chosen not to resign and now I must act,” Lee told reporters, emphasizing that “I do so with an understanding of the seriousness and gravity of the situation.”

Lee made no statements about how Mirkarimi’s guilty plea to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge – reduced down from the three more serious charges he originally faced – rose to the level of official misconduct or why it warrants his removal, other than making general statements about ethics.

“We must always be held to the highest ethical and legal standards,” Lee said, adding that Mirkarimi had failed to do so. “I’m doing what’s in the best interests of the people of San Francisco.”

Time may tell whether that last statement is true, and whether the Ethics Commission and nine members of the Board of Supervisors agree and are willing remove a public official from office in San Francisco for just the third time in the last century.