Calif. board signals vote against removing sheriff

Associated Press Published: October 10, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After nine months of headlines and bitter legal squabbling over the fate of San Francisco's sheriff, three members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors said Tuesday that they decided he should not be removed from office over a domestic violence case involving his actress wife.

It would take at least nine votes from the 11-member board to oust Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who was elected last fall and mired in controversy before his swearing-in ceremony. But three of the first four supervisors to discuss their upcoming vote said they would not find that Mirkarimi was guilty of official misconduct.

When the third announced his intention, Mirkarimi smiled and appeared stunned, and his wife embraced her attorney. A throng of Mirkarimi supporters cheered.

Inside an intense overflow board chambers mostly filled with Mirkarimi supporters, lawyers for both the mayor's office and the sheriff stated their respective cases before board members during an hours-long hearing.

Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser said that Mirkarimi simply committed an act of domestic violence and that should not be ignored.

"It wasn't a mistake on December 31. It was a crime, a very serious crime," said Kaiser as a chorus of boos erupted from the crowd.

Mirkarimi's attorneys, David Waggoner and Shepard Kopp said that city continues to give ambiguous interpretations of what is "official misconduct."

"The punishment doesn't fit the crime," Waggoner said.

The dramatic case has played out all year long.

In March, Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay after the sheriff pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment related to a New Year's Eve dispute with his wife, Venezuela soap opera star Eliana Lopez, who suffered a bruised bicep. Mirkarimi was sentenced to three years of probation, fined $590 and ordered to undergo one year of counseling and parenting classes.

The mayor then took the unprecedented step of trying to permanently remove Mirkarimi from office. Lee testified before the city's Ethics Commission in June that he would find it "extremely difficult" to work with Mirkarimi again, and said he thought Mirkarimi committed domestic violence.

In August, the commission decided 4-1 that Mirkarimi committed official misconduct, setting the stage for the supervisors' vote on whether to oust him.