A defiant Ross Mirkarimi vowed Thursday to "absolutely" fight the charges of ethical misconduct brought against him by Mayor Ed Lee in response to a lengthy domestic abuse saga that has unfolded over the past three months.
San Francisco's embattled sheriff pleaded guilty to false imprisonment last week as part of a bargain with prosecutors to have more serious domestic violence charges against his wife, Venezuelan soap opera actress Eliana Lopez, dropped. But he refuses to resign from his post, despite widespread public demand from anti-domestic abuse advocates and San Francisco officials.
In response to his refusal, the mayor officially suspended Mirkarimi earlier this week, charging him with misconduct. Lee needs nine of the city's 11 supervisors to vote in favor of removal in order to permanently strip the sheriff of his title.
"After careful review of the City Charter and the evidence before me, I am suspending and formally charging Ross Mirkarimi with official misconduct," Lee said in a statement. "I take this action with every conviction that I am acting on a firm legal basis and doing what is in the best interest of the people of San Francisco."
San Francisco's Ethics Commission will hold a hearing on the matter next month, after which the case will be examined by the Board of Supervisors. The San Francisco Examiner's Melissa Griffin noted earlier this week that the vote to remove the sheriff puts several of the city's progressive supervisors, who have long held political alliances with the Mirkarimi, in a difficult position:
Progressive supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu, Eric Mar and Christina Olague will each be defending their seats this November, and now they are in a pretty tough spot. Vote to oust Mirkarimi and anger fellow progressives who cling to theories about how their Golden Boy is the victim of a vast, right-wing conspiracy. Vote to keep Mirkarimi and become a piÃ±ata for one's political opponents.
Yesterday, local Democratic Party chairman Aaron Peskin called on Mirkarimi to resign and "amend his relationships and family." And by that he meant, "Please don't sacrifice other progressives at the altar of your own ego."
Even if Mirkarimi does emerge victorious, he risks losing his city pension and health benefits. The SF Appeal reports:
Under Measure C, a voter initiative approved in June 2008, a city employee convicted of a crime involving "moral turpitude" can lose his or her city retirement benefits.
The sheriff has been sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to attend anti-domestic violence counseling in exchange for his false imprisonment plea. He was originally charged with domestic violence battery and child endangerment stemming from an incident that took place on New Year's Eve, during which the sheriff allegedly grabbed his wife's arm hard enough to leave a bruise in front of their three-year-old son.
Lee has appointed Vicki Hennessy to serve as interim sheriff during Mirkarimi's suspension. She is the first woman in San Francisco's history to assume the role.