Commission narrows Mirkarimi charges to one but recommends removal

Ross Mirkarimi with Eliana Lopez, attorney David Waggoner, and his mother, Nancy Kolman Ventrone (right), after the ruling.
Steven T. Jones

The Ethics Commission today unanimously rejected most of Mayor Ed Lee’s official misconduct charges against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi – including abuse of power, impeding a police investigation, and dissuading witnesses – but voted 4-1 to recommend the Board of Supervisors find him guilty of official misconduct for grabbing his wife’s arm on Dec. 31 and pleading guilty to the resulting misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment.

The sole dissenting vote, Chair Benedict Hur, said he had “grave concerns” that such as a broad interpretation of what behaviors constitute official misconduct would give mayors a “strong tool” to inappropriately remove their political adversaries (or at least invite charges that they were), as Mirkarimi supporters allege is happening now.

But the rest of the commission adopted a broad interpretation of what city officials and voters intended in 1995 when they overhauled the City Charter and added a new official misconduct clause banning “conduct that falls below the standard of decency, good faith and right action impliedly required of all public officers.”

“I have a lot of concerns about where you draw the line if you don’t relate it to official duties,” Hur said, appealing to his colleagues that, “I think this charter provision was meant to be narrow.”

Commissioner Paul Renne – who in earlier hearings had taken a strong role in excluding prejudicial evidence against Mirkarimi and was thought to be a possible vote in his favor – today led the charge in interpreting misconduct in the broadest possible way, arguing it didn’t even have to be related to his official duties, while the three other votes against Mirkarimi made the case that his conduct and conviction were related to a sheriff’s role overseeing the jail and its domestic violence programs.

“I think the voters would be shocked if we were to say a public official who pleaded guilty to domestic violence has not committed an act of official misconduct,” Renne said.

But Mirkarimi’s attorneys and supporters – who outnumbered those urging his removal (mostly domestic violence advocates) by more than 4-to-1 during the three hours of public testimony taken today – say the shocking thing is for a just-elected official to be unilaterally removed from office by a political adversary for reasons that today’s proceedings showed were tenuous.

“No case has ever been upheld in court to remove an elected official for a low-level misdemeanor,” said Paula Canny, the attorney for Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, who sat next to and supported his husband throughout today’s nine-hour proceedings.

Indeed, the city is wading into uncharted waters and the commission had few court precedents to draw from in making its findings. It’s also possible that the charter provision is unconstitutionally vague, as Mirkarimi’s attorneys have alleged, both here and in court, with an earlier judge opting to wait until after the city’s process plays out before ruling on the question.

But first, it will be up to the Board of Supervisors, where nine votes on the 11-member body are required to remove Mirkarimi. Today’s hearing got complicated at the end – as commissioners wrestled with what it means to essentially throw out the mayor’s charges and adopt their own more narrow accusation, and how to present everything to the board – that it decided to hold one more meeting in early September to adopt a summary and send everything to the board, which will then have 30 days to act.  

“I leave this process concerned that the will of the voters is being undermined,” Mirkarimi told reporters after the hearing. Holding his hand, Lopez said, “I’m shocked to see what happened today, but we are fighters.”


For complete coverage and analysis of what happened today, what it means, and what’s next, read next week’s Bay Guardian.


been caught having an affair, or with a hooker, or paying a rentboy etc. Invariably they stand down or their party disowns them.

It is only because the left win elected office so often that they are sticking their heads in the sand now. It's just too bad that when you finally found an office you could win, albeit only thru RCV, that you picked someone who would self-destruct within a week.

And yet, ain't it always the way with the left? They always find a thousand ways to screw up.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 12:37 am

Your surprise is a result of your bad thinking. The "Left" is not a single entity. And not all people who were opposed to Mayor Lee's actions are on the political left. The Republican candidate for Mayor spoke out against Lee's actions too.

However, the sameness of many anti-Mirkarimi comments suggests that there was an organized attempt by political enemies to unseat the Sheriff.

Posted by Bob_in_Portland on Aug. 18, 2012 @ 8:19 am

"been caught having an affair [Newsom, with his empoyee who happened to be his best friend's wife], or with a hooker [David Vitter], or paying a rentboy [Barney Frank actually ran a prostitution ring out of his apartment] etc. Invariably they stand down or their party disowns them." [no they invariably do not -see above]

Posted by Greg on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 12:56 am

I doubt that you whined that much. But there are always exceptions and you knew that; you cherry-picked them.

Lee offered Ross another job if he'd stand down. Most of us have no issue with Ross serving the city as long as it is NOT in law enforcement.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 1:43 am

I wasn't the one whining. I merely took the 3 cases guest/troll cited and provided one counter example for every single one. I just provided the first examples that came into my head, though as you point out (actually bolstering my point), there are many, many more. Given that troll/guest used the term "invariably," I felt 3 examples were *more* than sufficient to disprove the assertion. There was no need for overkill. Perhaps you are unclear on what the term "invariably" means.

As for Lee offering Ross another job, that's just proof that this isn't about an arm bruise. It's about neutralizing a political opponent. Ed Lee should be prosecuted for perjury and abuse of power.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 7:45 am

lying bald-facedly as did the public commenter at yesterday's hearing when she made this same claim -- later amplified by one of the commissioners.

I asked you to prove it. You failed. It is a lie. Just one more lie of many that have been told in service to the mayor's corrupt agenda.
lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 8:25 am

Will he assume a modicum of honor and resign his position before dragging the city through yet another degrading process, which in the end results in humiliation for him and his family?

No - he won't. We'll be dragged through this from before Halloween and then prolly beyond Christmas. And maybe after if he involves the state and federal court system in this process.

Honestly - I wish the city would offer him $200-300,000 to leave and in return seek to dismiss all of these charges. This whole repulsive scenario feels like it will never end. Enough is enough.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 1:55 am

now causes him to endlessly fight a lost cause rather than look to the future.

It seems like in Ross's mind, and even though he want through the motions of apologizing to all and sundry, he doesn't really believe that he did anything wrong.

After all, their neighbor said he was routinely harsh and domineering with his wife, so this cannot be passed off as a one-time thing. And indeed, in Eliana's video, she points to the bruise and says "it's happened before".

I think we all know by now that Ross has some significant and structural personality flaws, and 70% to 80% of SF'ers deem him unsuitable to resume office. But Ross, and a handful of diehards here posting under multiple handles, have stuck their fingers in their ears and repat "I'm not listening".

Listen, guys.

And the irony is that Lee was willing to give him another job. That seems doubtful now after Ross has selfishly dragged this on for months, seemingly not caring what the people have said they wanted - for Ross to go away, learn from his mistakes and move on.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 2:27 am

you state, they Lee most certainly perjured himself to the EC and committed offical misconduct.

Again, with regard to the false poll, it isn't the same as an election -- or we could completely dispense with elections and let gossip columnists and internet trolls tell us who is in charge.

lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 7:27 am

pig-headed that he refused it. He was given a way out of this and he can only blame himself now.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:16 pm

I suppose the POA should be disbanded because any cop who gets in trouble should just take their discipline and keep shut.

In a democracy you have the right to defend yourself. The expense is on Lee, who initiated it and who brought in all sorts of witnesses who really added nothing to the proceedings and failed to prove Lee's charges.

Posted by Bob_in_Portland on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

I thought Lee testified under oath that he didn't offer Ross a job?

Did you get the wrong script?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 3:58 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... GREAT ... now the ETHICS COMMISSION can move against the FOUR SUPERVISORS found GUILTY of "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" that was decided and sent to ETHICS per sunshine for violation prior to ROSS' December date while he was NOT in office. Here clearly the SUPERVISORS were in office and FOUND GUILTY by SUNSHINE. Check out on city website ... go and check out case # 11048.

Then ETHICS can call all the cases that it failed for "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" as found guilty by SUNSHINE ... re-open them ... apply the same NEW STANDARD and RULE interpretation ... and APPLY EVENLY. They can start with my NURSE RATCH case see where the paperwork is on the web. There is also the paperwork the ETHICS COMMISSION specifically asking about the "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" phrase and you will NOTE ... NO RESPONSE. Was the COMMISSION UNETHICAL then and made up now ... then where are the calls and re-opening of the cases?

So, before the FOUR SUPERVISORS can sit in JUDGMENT of ROSS ... will it be heard in ETHICS ... their "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" according to the MINISTRY of SUNSHINE happened before ROSS' ....

Why is NO ONE asking this questions ?

At the very LEAST the FOUR SUPERVISORS MUST recuse themselves from voting or go through the NEW RULES and STANDARD process at ETHICS as did ROSS before they can sit in JUDGMENT. These (supervisors) sitting in JUDGMENT must be "ABOVE REPROACH" and this MUST be addressed before or then already found guilty of "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" by SUNSHINE (the fact finders) will decide. THEY MUST be cleared by ETHICS before under the same INTERPRETATION of "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" that they used against ROSS. Shall we see how the INTERPRETATION of "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT: plays out in this ETHICS proceeding for the FOUR SUPERVISORS?

"LIVE by the SWORD ... DIE by the SWORD." I can just hear the ETHICS COMMISSION when it comes to this "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" against the supervisors ... they will probably say "THAT IS NOT WHAT WE CLAIMED WHEN WE INTERPRETED the OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT definition THAT WE USED AGAINST ROSS. or maybe they will say on;y the MAYOR can remove for "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" even though the SUNSHINE found them guilty and referred to ETHICS just as the MAYOR ... shall we wait and see ???

As another point ... my prediction regarding the MAYOR'S possible perjury and the BOMB threat can TRUE ... preliminary, perfunctory , no real investigation ... move on ... we are waiting for another crises so that the MASSES will forget. Yes, a perfect ten (10) on the 1 to 10 "STINK FACTOR."

However nothing NEW ... go to htpp:// to see JUST how far the city will go to WIN. Enjoy ...

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 5:50 am


Read the Chronicle article, and didn't get any idea of what happened. Thanks for good reporting. The BOS has 30 days to act. That's critical.

Posted by Thea on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 6:31 am

text defining official misconduct get added? I'll admit I've been a bit confused about this.

The 1932 charter only specified "moral turpitude":

The 1995's Prop E (new city charter) which created the EC does not seem to include the phrase defining official misconduct. (Page 175)

The 2003 Prop E (ethics reform) contains the definition of official misconduct, but it is both in strike-out type and underlined, signifying that it was removed from one section of the law and added elsewhere.

So when and by whom di the malleable "impliedly required" language get written into law?

lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 7:43 am

Geez. Who hasn't bruised his wife's arm from time to time? Who hasn't told her she doesn't deserve to eat? Who hasn't left his pregnant, foreign-born wife waiting at the airport while he partys in his office? Give Ross a break, will ya?

Posted by Georgie Tirebiter on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 8:32 am

doesn't know what "hearsay" is.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 8:56 am

which is of course an apt moniker for one of the anti-Mirkarimi commenters here.

lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:17 am

When right before the final vote, the thick-necked man-hater, Beverly Upton, pointedly placed her enormous backyard as close to Ross and Eliana as she could get, with a huge smirk plastered on her mug. Her thrill was palpable at being so responsible for making life a living hell for this family, frothing for even more destruction They gave this battle to the DV frowners for the obvious political reasons,but the war is not yet over. Ben Hur, the only commission member who wasn't either a doddering old fool( and Cunnie financial supporter) or a woman in that unfortunate trio of battleaxes with no sense of proportionality re: domestic violence, Hur wisely had the courage to note and vote as he did.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 8:54 am

Could you pick a more losing battle? lol...

Oh wait, maybe you can? Now apparently we've moved beyond simply competing with "DV frowners" (your words) and picking a fight with.... wait for it... women. Just women in general.

"Ben Hur, the only commission member who wasn't either a doddering old fool( and Cunnie financial supporter) or a woman in that unfortunate trio of battleaxes with no sense of proportionality..." (your words again)

Good. Fucking. Luck. lol

Posted by Scram on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:20 am

once directed at her. It's shocking that a woman who once sued her TV station for sex and age discrimination all the way to the Supreme Court would one day be penning anonymous messages calling other women "battle axes" and "man haters."

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:53 am

did you assume I was unaware of what I wrote? in terms of the "fucking" luck you speak of, may all your future partners have a disproportionate sense of what domestic violence is and look like one of the professional scowlers, never knowing a minute of sexual bliss. Good luck.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:48 am

Christine you have really gone off the deep end. I always knew there was a strange sort of obsessive sexual attraction underlying your pathetic crusade on behalf of Ross but that response really proves it. You need to get help lady.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 11:28 am

Ok, let me preface by saying that I've never seen Beverly Upton before, so none of my opinions about this case have anything to do with her physical attributes, or more to the point, lack thereof. But "Guest" has piqued my curiousity so I did a google image search. Though it's impolite to say so, there may be something to the Guest's point that her deep-seated hatred, and apparent burning desire to destroy other people's relationships, comes from an inner dissatisfaction with her own lack of attractiveness.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 18, 2012 @ 8:53 am

She really must be going crazy over this whole thing what with her hero Ross losing repeatedly and now on the verge of being tossed out of office.

Posted by Troll II on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:50 am

Wow. Just jaw-droppingly sexist and ageist. Incredible.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:58 am

One can be old without being both doddering and foolish. Mr. Renne's ego was so offended when the final argument briefs submitted by the Sheriff's lawyers included the phrase "dog and pony show". Renne sputtered and doddered on that one. Why the ethics commission would never hold a "dog and pony show" !
Except for one big problem. Mr. Renne went through all the motions for months, evaluating whether there had been witness dissuasion(NO), improper hand over of guns(NO),coercion of his wife using his power to take their child(NO) and on and on ad nauseum. Mr. Renne knew from the beginning when it was clearly established by the fact of the sheriff's misdemeanor conviction(which the sheriff freely admitted), Mr. Renne knew that he was going to vote to convict the sheriff of "official misconduct".
So, in fact, Renne knew, as did the three women on the committee, that they were going to give the DV groups what they wanted..So, it was, in fact a big DOG AND PONY SHOW. and Renne knows it. He shouldn't be proud of it, nor should they.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2012 @ 8:15 am

I remember early on Renne said that the City's proposed evidence on Holly Madison was just designed to poison the well. These pages were quick to point out the vast legal experience and knowledge of Mr. Renne.

But now that he's voted in a way that displeases the Progressives???

Why, now he's nothing but a doddering old fool.

What a bunch of whining losers. No wonder the Progressive movement has dropped like a rock.

Posted by Troll on Aug. 18, 2012 @ 8:51 am

A few weeks ago I was banned from sfgate. I've asked three times now for an explanation of what comment violated their terms and agreement without response. The best I can figure is that I asked how come The Chronicle, with their vast resources devoted to seeing Mirkarimi thrown out of office, couldn't have someone flip his or her rolodex and get Phil Bronstein's story down on paper.

I'd be curious if any other posters at sfgate who strayed from their editorial board's anti-Mirkarimi position were banned. I suspect there were some more.

Posted by Bob In Portland on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:04 am

ban Mirkarimi supporters is indeed wholly without merit.

Don't waste any breath asking for an explanation because they have likely blocked even your question to them in that regard.

I am boycotting SFGate since my banning -- having decided that if I can't comment on their revolting tripe, I certainly have no reason to read it -- but in one of the half dozen visits since then, I noticed that the commenter home pages were re-formatted and the identities of banned friends is no longer visible.

Now and again I recall fondly some conversations I had and freindships I made on SFGate, but now I can't even see the names of those friends who were banned and neither can any of those remaining with accounts see any remembrance of my identity.

This is like the airbrushing out of unwanted details by the editors of Pravda. The Chronicle is a cesspool of deceit.

lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:47 am

For ex, rjerje, who has posted in a most courteous manner, seems to have also been wiped from the slate over there. It seems that the Chronic is devolving into a pretty dogmatic rag which won't allow dissent. That's pretty pathetic for the paper of record for San Francisco.

I would also add that the POA posters who demand that we respond to their posts consider searching out a venue that allows other opinions.

Posted by Bob_in_Portland on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 11:17 am

On occasion I attempted to answer cloaked ad hominem attacks in kind -- usually without success -- but rjerje was notable in never doing so. Pure deadpan. I have a great deal of respect for such imperturbability in the face of such editorial and internet troll mendacity as is commonplace on that site.

The banning of rjerje from SFGate is indisputable evidence of their intellectual cowardice.

Chron editorial board; Bronstein and friends: you have much to feel ashamed of.

lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

I was banned from the Chron lots of times.

I used to just sign up again but now they make you send an email explaining why you want to comment. China needs to take lessons from the US on how to censor the media.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

Am I the only poster at sfgate to have run afoul of their editorial board and gotten banned over the Mirkarimi case?

Posted by Bob_in_Portland on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:34 am

I've been banned twice. Free speech does not exist at SFGate.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

The Mirkarimi affair is really a contest between two theories of government in SF. One side believes they need to give certain rich people what they want to gain their campaign contributions. The other side wants to try to govern by not giving a few rich people what they want, and running for office without their money.

If Mirkarimi is successfully removed it could mean the side that gives the rich people what they want has won.

Progressives may have to change their election tactics going forward.

The next mayor's race could come down to a contest between who is willing to give rich people the most.

I'm starting to be moved by the argument that PGE should have absolutely, positively whatever they want.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:38 am

...a corrupt political establishment. That is why he is being punished - no other reason.

I am still out-of-state and wasn't at yesterday's hearing, but here are my comments from May 29.

Posted by Erika McDonald on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:07 am
Posted by lillipublicans© on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:50 am

Lotsa good hyber-blow in your comments, Erika.

Nice job.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

"comments" are as useless now as they were then.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

The established powers are cracking down on Ross & Elaina the same way the capitalits did to Hugo in Venezuela.

She knows all about that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

The established powers are cracking down on Ross & Elaina the same way the capitalits did to Hugo in Venezuela.

She knows all about that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

How can the decision of anyone be tolerated when that person (Renne) still believes that Ross pled to a domestic violence charge when it was NOT? These people are in charge of Ethics in San Francisco? Give me a break!!

Posted by Terrrie Frye on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

the DV count, it was only because he knew he would otherwise be convicted of that, as the video evidence was damning, and he knew it.

Ross subsequently stated on the record that "I committed an act of violence against my wife". If Ross admits DV why do you make excuses for him?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

for those whose arms have been grabbed.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2012 @ 5:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2012 @ 11:16 pm

Some say that the EC made its recommendation to the BOS's while other reports claim that the EC came to a conclusion but has yet to make its recommendation to the Board. Which is it? If the press is confused, just imagine how the rest of us feel. I hope SFBG, et al, gets it together so we can figure out what transpired at the EC, and what the next step is. Just saying.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

If a jury finds a defendant guilty of any counts, they don't tell the judge to them let him off, do they?

The juries finds guilt and the judge gives a sentence. So it is here too. The supes can ignore the EC, but then why hold months of hearings and fact-finding?

I suspect that Avalos will ignore the findings and vote politically here. I'm confident that the other ten will send Ross down. The people will punish any Supe who allows an admitted wife-assaulter to hold down a LE job.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

If the EC had recommended removal from office, then the Supes could feel off the hook. But now, the Supes have to make the call by themselves and, if they vote to let Ross back, the people and voters will know they that it is the Supes, and not the EC, who made that unpopular decision AND against the findings of misconduct.

This increases the pressure on the Supes to put Ross out to pasture. they know that three out of four voters want Ross gone, and the EC aren't giving them any cover here. Even Avalos and Campos don't want to be tainted by a toxic pol like Ross.

It's actually a very clever ploy by the EC.

Posted by Anonymous on Aug. 17, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

should be removed, *that* would put more pressure on the supes to act.

There is *no* analogy for the relationship between the ethics commission and the criminal justice system as you claim, but rather the ethics panel seems like it was intended to be the forum for basic fact-finding make a recommendation and of course the ultimate authority is vested in the board of supervisors.

And the fact that the ethics commission didn't explicitly vote on whether the sheriff should be removed seems as apt to be taken to suggest that he *shouldn't* be removed; which is probably what most voters think now that the basic inadequacy of Lee's case has been brought to light.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 18, 2012 @ 4:42 am