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Vote to restore SF sheriff brings further division

Associated Press Modified: October 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm •  Published: October 11, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Embattled San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is expected to take control of his department next week, even as the district attorney, the mayor and a city official who voted not to remove him from office question his ability to oversee the agency.

Though he avoided losing his job, Mirkarimi is on probation for a criminal conviction in a domestic violence case stemming from a New Year's Eve dispute with his actress wife.

"I have grave concerns about Ross Mirkarimi's ability to manage the Sheriff's Department," District Attorney George Gascon said Wednesday. "What I will not accept is any compromise of public safety as a result of his reinstatement. ... I am calling upon Ross to recuse himself from the duties in his office that relate to the custody, supervision, safety and rehabilitation of domestic violence offenders."

The Board of Supervisors voted late Tuesday against upholding official misconduct charges and removing the suspended sheriff from office. Nine of 11 votes were required to oust Mirkarimi. The board voted 7-4.

The four supervisors whose votes blocked the sheriff's ouster on Tuesday are progressives like Mirkarimi. John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Christina Olague each denounced domestic violence, but said Mirkarimi's incident didn't rise to the level of official misconduct according to the City Charter.

On Wednesday, Kim emailed her constituents explaining her vote while also saying her faith in Mirkarimi as a person and sheriff has been "greatly diminished." She even suggested that voters demand a recall.

"I am deeply pained by the decision because regardless of the legal reasoning for my final vote, I know that the public may perceive this as a statement that violence committed by an elected official is OK," Kim said. "The electorate has every right to recall the sheriff, an action which I would support."

For any recall vote of Mirkarimi, petitioners would need to gather more than 48,000 signatures — about 10 percent of all registered voters in San Francisco — within 160 days, John Arntz, the city's director of elections, said Thursday.

If certified by the Elections Department, a special election would be called, Arntz said. He added that if the effort ended near the November 2013 election, the recall would go on that ballot.

Meanwhile, Mirkarimi continues transitioning back to his job. He is expected to lead the department next week.

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