Just when it seemed impossible for the saga of suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to get any stranger, a city commissioner has accused Mayor Ed Lee of perjury based on his sworn testimony during Mirkarimi's ethics hearing on Friday.
Mirkarimi attorney Shepard Kopp was grilling Lee on the legitimacy of his decision to remove the newly elected sheriff from office without pay when he asked if the mayor had consulted with any members of the Board of Supervisors about the situation. The mayor replied that he had not.
Minutes later, police evacuated the mayor from the room, saying that there had been a bomb threat.
While the building was being cleared former progressive District Six supervisor candidate Deborah Walker told reporters that the mayor's answer may have been less than truthful.
Walker, who is friends with District Five Supervisor Christina Olague, claimed Olague had told her that she and Lee had discussed Mirkarimi's removal several times earlier this year.
"When the mayor said he hadn’t talked to any supervisors, I know that to be not the fact," Walker told the San Francisco Examiner. "I was told by Christina Olague that she was meeting with the mayor about things and he had asked her specifically about whether or not he should remove Mirkarimi from office. And at the time, Christina told me that she had opined that he should ask for his resignation and if Mirkarimi didn't resign that he should just let it go."
Olague, immediately besieged by the media, went into her office and initially refused to answer any questions. "I never talked to Debra Walker about this subject matter...and we can't talk about this subject matter because it is something that may be coming before the Board," Olague later told Fog City Journal. "So we have to be judge and jury on this and we're not allowed to comment on it publicly."
In California, someone convicted of perjury can be sentenced to up to four years in prison. But no one can be found guilty of perjury based on the testimony of a single person other than the defendant.
So in the unlikely event that someone decided to pursue the mayor on this issue, Walker's word alone wouldn't be enough to actually go anywhere.
Olague, who has since said she may recuse herself from voting on whether to permanently remove Mirkarimi from office, was appointed by Lee to fill the seat vacated by Mirkarimi when he was elected Sheriff last November.
Even before the perjury allegations, Lee's testimony before the ethics committee wasn't going especially well by many accounts. Mirkarimi's attorney aggressively quizzed the mayor on whether other scenarios, such as having an affair with a direct subordinate (a la former Mayor Gavin Newsom) or assaulting your spouse with a wine bottle (a la former Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White) met the standard of "violating the public trust" that Lee used when deciding Mirkarimi's fate.
Connors also noted that during the security threat (which officials later deemed not to be credible), only Lee and the Ethics Commissioners were ferried out of the room, leaving the spectators--who were not at the time told about the situation--sitting there bewildered. The building was never locked down, nor were attendees cleared.
The next Ethics Committee hearing is scheduled for later this month. The committee hopes to get Mirkarimi's wife, Eliana Lopez, to testify. She is current with her young son Theo in her native Venezuela, however, and has said she will only do so if the city pays for her plane ticket.