Mirkarimi won't resign; Lee to file misconduct charge

March 21, 2012 1:51:26 AM PDT
Embattled San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced Tuesday that he will not resign, despite an ultimatum from Mayor Ed Lee. Lee followed Mirkarimi's announcement by saying that he intends to file official misconduct charges against Mirkarimi and begin the process of having him removed from office.

Lee said he took "great care" to respect legal process but now must act. Lee said Mirkarimi will be charged Wednesday and once he is suspended, longtime emergency management head Vicki Hennessy will be appointed as interim sheriff.

Mirkarimi appeared before reporters Tuesday afternoon and said that he does not believe his conduct constituted "official misconduct" within the law. He said he looks forward to making his case to the Ethics Committee.

"I believe that I am still very able to be the sheriff of San Francisco and at this time I do not plan to resign," Mirkarimi said. "I am deeply sorry to the people of San Francisco, to my wife and son, my family, and for any embarrassment caused to City Hall and to this department."

Mirkarimi added that he very much wished to be reunited with his wife Eliana Lopez, who he said he has not seen or spoken to in nine weeks.

Half hour later after Mirkarimi's press conference, the San Francisco mayor announced he wasn't going to let Mirkarimi stay.

"We must always be held to the highest legal and ethical standards. Sheriff Mirkarimi's actions and confession of guilt clearly fall below these standards of decency and good faith, rightly required of all public officials," Lee said. "I informed him of my intent to fulfill my duties pursuant to the charter and move to suspend and remove him from the office for official misconduct."

According to the executive director of the Ethics Commission, the mayor must now present the written charges against Mirkarimi to them by Monday. They will then set a hearing date, most likely sometime in early April. After the hearing, the Ethics Commission will submit their recommendation to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for a vote. They'll have 30 days to decide whether to remove Mirkarimi or reinstate him as sheriff. Nine of the 11 supervisors must agree in order to remove him.

Key witness Ivory Madison's side of the story was presented Tuesday in the form of an op-ed piece by husband Abraham Mertens in the San Francisco Chronicle. In the editorial, he called for Mirkarimi, his next door neighbor, to resign as sheriff.

Mertens accused Mirkarimi of trying to silence his wife. He wrote, "Telling the truth and facing the consequences are pillars of our society, and I'm proud of my wife for setting a good example for our daughter. If everyone acted as she did, the world would be a better place. If everyone behaved as Ross and Eliana did, can you imagine what would happen to our justice system and society?"

Mertens also wrote that Lopez pressured him to destroy evidence and lie to police. Madison, videotaped Lopez's bruised arm and Lopez talking about Mirkarimi yelling at her and grabbing her. Madison turned that video over to police.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lopez's attorney, Paula Canny, insisted that her client did nothing wrong and denied the accusations against Mirkarimi. She also called for an end to attacks on her client. Canny added Lopez is not afraid of her husband and wants him to keep his job.

"If you respect Eliana Lopez, if you respect Theo, if you care about them at all, please let Ross do his job, please support Eliana Lopez, please support their son," Canny said.

According to Canny, Lopez doesn't feel anyone has showed any compassion or understanding for her feelings, as the supposed victim in this case.


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