Ross Mirkarimi won the most important political victory of his life Tuesday night, when the San Francisco Board Of Supervisors voted 7 to 4 – with the four being Supervisors John Avalos (District 11), David Campos (District 9), Jane Kim (District 6), and Christina Olague (District 5) – voted to for Ross to keep his job, thus ending what essentially was a not-so-quiet campaign on the part of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to oust Ross Mirkarimi from his position as the elected sheriff of SF, and after allegations of domestic violence and a plea deal to be convicted of false imprisonment and child endangerment.
And starting talk that Mayor Ed Lee’s political juice has dried up, considerably.
And all of that on Tuesday, brought to an end a process that started New Year’s Day 2012, when Ross and his wife Eliana Lopez, and their son Theo were headed to lunch at, or as Ross explained it to this blogger on Father’s Day:
Actually December 31st New Year’s Eve day. Where my wife and I were heading this direction for lunch actually (we were on Fillmore and California Streets and Ross pointed behind and to his right, or left) to a place where they don’t take reservations, Delfina’s Pizza over here (at 2406 California Street). It was New Years’s Eve, they don’t take reservations, and we were quarreling and we were with our them two-and-a-half-year-old son Theo – beautiful little boy…we were on our way – the quarrel, which is something that had been unresolved, is about long bouts, trips, my wife would take with my son abroad to Venezuela for some months. This time we were talking about a plan which we didn’t come to an agreement to and I turned the car around against my wife’s wishes, which is considered, and what I eventually pled to is a misdemeanor – false imprisonment. So we didn’t go to lunch, I turned the car around against her wishes, so we didn’t argue here. And then after parking the car, and reacting intensely, wrongly on my part, to the argument we were having, tried to deescalate or respond in a way that obviously wasn’t smart, I reached out and I grabbed my wife’s arm and it got bruised on the right, under here (gesturing).
June 18th video interview (30 min):
That happened the day of the weekend before Ross was sworn in as Sheriff on January 7th. That swearing-in ceremony marked the fact that Ross’ incident occurred while he was Sheriff-elect, not Sheriff. Thus, Ross has had only a few weeks early this year to even try to settle in to his position, before the Mayor and the court stepped in.
That exchange caused the bruised and very upset Ms. Lopez to run to her neighbor Ivory Madison for help. Madison’s a trained lawyer and worked to gather the evidence that would later be released and be used against Mirkarimi in video form. It has been reported that Lopez testified that she realized she could not trust Ivory after Madison mouthed the idea of ‘calling Ross’s political enemies’ to help Lopez bring him down. Eliana said that once she clearly stated that she didn’t want police involvement was when Madison called the police.
This is the video:
A video that remained unseen by many for months, until Freedom Of Information Act filings by a number of local media outlets found a judicial voice and it was released for public view May 31st.
The Heat Turns Up
After a first January week were rumors of a domestic violence matter between Ross and his wife swirled, on January 11th it was reported that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón planned to file misdemeanor domestic violence charges against the then-newly sworn-in Sheriff. It was at that point Gascón announced he had a video – the one Madison made of Eliana Lopez.
Ross arrived in court and pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and the other charges of false imprisonment and child endangerment. But in court, the judge gave an order that would wreck his already then-damaged family life: Judge Susan Breall ordered Ross to stay away from his wife and son. That was Ross’ first level of punishment.
His second would come from Ed Lee.
In a private meeting between Lee and Mirkarimi after the sentencing, Mayor Lee told Mirkarimi to step down within 24 hours or face an official misconduct charge and possibly forced removal from office. Ross, Leo that he is with the same birthday as this blogger (August 4th), elected to stay in his job and fight City Hall.
Ed Lee Puts Screws To Ross Mirkarimi
Reacting with speed, and with the open behest of the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee brought considerable attention to the matter of Ross’ punishment and resources and relationships to the issue – and with some less-than-helpful results.
Mayor Ed Lee released a statement saying the matter was “serious and troubling for our City. The Sheriff, one of our top law enforcement officials, has now pleaded guilty to an unexpected and very serious charge that has introduced a new set of legal issues that must be thoroughly reviewed.” Then Ed said, “I intend to make a decision based on all of the facts as quickly as possible.”
The decision Mayor Lee made was to suspend Ross from his job without pay pending Ethics Commission review and decision that would be sent to the San Francisco Board Of Supervisors for final reaction. (That was Ross second form of punishment.)
In other words, Mayor Lee was trying to use the San Francisco Ethics Commission as a tool to try and pry Ross out of his job. Lee’s argument was that Ross’ action constituted official misconduct while in office, or “any wrongful behavior by a public officer in relation to the duties of his or her office…” – a tricky go because Ross wasn’t in office at the time, nor was he on duty either. Thus, when Ross said the matter was personal, he was technically correct, even though it was down right stupid on his part to say that at the time.
The Ethics Commission’s Kangaroo Court
This blogger accused the San Francisco Ethics Commission of being a kangaroo court because it didn’t seem to know what it was really voting on, but then voted anyway, and seemed to be directed to vote in a certain way by the executive director of the ethics commission. With that, it elected to vote 4-1 that Mirkarimi committed official misconduct, even as in the discussion the commissioners agreed that Ross really could not be found to be guilty of official misconduct because of the timing of the incident and the nature of it.
Finally, today, the San Francisco Board Of Supervisors made its decision, and Ross keeps his job. Here’s my talk with he and Eliana before the hearing:
Winners and Losers
Who are the winners and losers in this epic political battle? Well, Ross Mirkarimi proved you can fight City Hall and win. Now that he’s going to get his job back, he’s not only got a lot of work to do, the good news is, according to a source over there in the Sheriff’s Department, Ross doesn’t have any fires to put out.
Ross also has new-found political power now that he’s able to run the department after getting a look at the true colors of his political operatives. It was pointed out to me that Ross could elect to have a new nonprofit handle the departments post-prison prevention programs for domestic violence, as one example. That would be a way of punishing his new-found enemies.
As to the persons who were managing the Sheriff’s department, my sources tell me that Interim SF Sheriff Vicky Hennessy’s “gone by the week” as she came out of retirement at the request of Mayor Lee to replace Ross during the Ethics Commission probe. There may be the under-sheriff on the chopping block, as well as one or two officials who were a bit too vocal against Ross online.
Other winners include SF’s Progressive Community, which really rose up to combat what it saw as a over-stated expression of wanton power on the part of Ed Lee – even to the point of an Internet banner ad campaign.
For losers, we have to start with Ed Lee, who, while principled in his actions, stepped to the point of stepping in the pile of deep do that is any expression of too much political power, and this was it. Ed forgot that San Francisco’s not Chicago, and he doesn’t command as much juice as Ross Mirkarimi does.
The other loser is the persons who were representing the domestic violence community in SF. For all of the talk about how the domestic violence community would turn against Ross, when the time came to be there, they were not out in force. Political power is an expression of money, media, and relationships – you have to have at least some command of one to be an effective player. But if you don’t have campaign bucks, or control or influence of media and social media, and a large email list and social media contact list, or have a great set of friends that will do your bidding, you’re not a true player.
The fact is the domestic violence lobby in San Francisco failed to get out its suporters on this issue, where Ross was able to call on his own. There’s no question that domestic violence is a cause worth fighting for, when it’s the focused cause. There’s a feeling that, as the year went on, this was more about Mayor Ed Lee getting Ross out, and less about domestic violence.
The victory also shows just how much political power Ross has, and it’s fair to say it’s considerably more than Mayor Lee’s at this point. Ross has reignited the San Francisco Progressive Movement, and the implications of this win for that group must be further considered.
Consider also that Christina Olague, who the Mayor hand picked to replace Ross in District Five, and who is running for reelection, defied the Mayor and backed Ross. The stated reason was that she did not like how he was using political power. But the unstated reason is that Ross’ backers do live in her district and she wants their vote.
The San Francisco Chronicle Lost
The other loser is the San Francisco Chronicle, which was actively calling for Ross’ suspension. It didn’t happen, so the paper that many San Franciscans stopped reading is left to twist in the wind.
Other Losers In The Outcome
Wow. Well, unfortunately for her, Christina Marie Flores, who’s SF Live Show this blogger was on in 2009,…
is a wonderful person but also is a big loser in this case, sadly because she put some real dirty laundry out there. Check out this blog post post by Tim Redmond of the SF Bay Gurdian:
Flores used to be my next-door neighbor and I’ve always been friendly with her. I was on her TV show once. But the news media accounts have essentially ignored a detail that was in one of Mirkarimi’s defense motions: After they broke up, Flores sent Mirkarimi a hate poem in which she not-terribly subtly threatened to damage his political career.
I’m not going to quote all of the emails cited in the brief (breakup+email=bad news); suffice to say that until December, 2008, Flores was clearly in love with Mirkarimi and sending him passionate notes asking him to reconsider what was obviously a move by Mirkarimi to end the relationship. (And yeah, there were nude pictures that Mirkarimi was supposed to “enjoy when you miss me.” Gak.)
On Jan 2, 2009, the brief states, “having understood that the relationship with Mirkarimi was over, Flores sent Mirkarimi a lengthy hate poem. In startling contrast to her prior e-mails to Mirkarimi, Flores now called Mirkarami `the worst type of waste of air’ and said that there ‘are smarter and more handsome men BY FAR.’
“Flores ended the poem with the following:
So as 2009 rolls in and you roll out
I remember what my life was all about
Surrounded by so many of my friends
I am rich and happy with how my story ends
Except one thing.
I have never had the distinct pleasure
Of meeting such an idiot of such great measure
That freely let me know of things
That could unwind plans of what his political future brings
Yes, I do know those, some of whom you hate.
Who could have a say in your fate
And long friendships with some that you despise
That after the fact have opened my eyes.
What to do with the ball in my court …
Let us see what happens.”
Don’t know who “some of whom you hate” means, but Mirkarimi has had a contentious relationship the San Francisco Police Department. Flores is the daughter of a police officer and the ex-wife of another officer, who happens to be a domestic violence inspector.
Three years after that poem was written, when she heard about the DV allegations against Mirkarimi, she filed a police report alleging similar behavior. She also talked to two newspapers, the Chronicle and SF Weekly.
In her statement to the district attorney’s office, the brief states, “Flores conceded that she wanted to go public for personal reasons: ‘He said that that woman from Venuzuela (Lopez) knew about our relationship and it didn’t matter to her … which I think is a lie. And that’s probably why I’m here because I don’t think she knew.’”
There will be more fallout from this decision. Stay tuned.