The Fate of Mirkarimi


San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee needed nine of 11 supervisors to uphold his bid to fire Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. He lost. Four supes — John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Christina Olague — voted Tuesday night to retain Mirkarimi.

Mirkarimi lost, as well. I understand that the sheriff does not agree with critics who believe that he might have avoided this battle if he had been less combative and had cooperated with authorities after his arrest for a Dec. 31 argument during which he bruised his wife’s right arm. Nonetheless, his refusal to bow to law enforcement authorities — and his failure to see how his situation put other politicians in a pickle — no doubt made it easy for District Attorney George Gascon to charge him with misdemeanor counts of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness.

In March, Mirkarimi took a big risk. He and wife Eliana Lopez insisted that he was not an abuser; nonetheless, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment so that he could get on with his life and start to repair a family separated by court order.

To Lee, it seems, the sheriff submitted not sufficiently and too late. Without so much as consulting Lopez, Lee asked the sheriff to resign.

When Mirkarimi refused, Lee cited a power in the city charter that allows him to try to remove another elected official for “official misconduct.” Thus began a political showdown as nasty as the most over-lawyered divorce.

Lee maintained that a domestic violence conviction disqualified Mirkarimi to serve as sheriff. But Lee couldn’t leave the matter there. He also piled on extra (ultimately unproven) charges — such as dissuading a witness — which drove up the legal tab of the city Ethics Commission investigation to close to $1.3 million.

Mirkarimi played the same game. His legal team tried to delay the ethics panel’s final decision. The sheriff’s credulous supporters hectored both ethics commissioners and anti-domestic violence advocates as witless tools in a liberal mayor’s attempt to dispatch a progressive rival.

On Tuesday night, Mirkarimi’s true believers heaped abuse on the supervisors, as well. They thought they were helping the sheriff and his family, but methinks they created a few new enemies for the sheriff in the elected progressive community.

If Mirkarimi had been slower to see himself as the victim of political persecution, he might not have been a victim of political persecution. As for Lee, he tried to grant himself the awesome power to ostracize other elected politicians, but some elected politicians wouldn’t play along. Perhaps he thought he had nothing to lose but other people’s time and money.

Email Debra J. Saunders at: [email protected].

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