Perjury allegations against Mayor Ed Lee could get folded into the official misconduct proceedings against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, but then again, they might not.
It’s up to The City’s Ethics Commission whether to subpoena additional witnesses to challenge what the mayor said in his June 29 testimony about his decision to suspend Mirkarimi. Lee set the process in motion in March, shortly after the sheriff pleaded guilty to a domestic abuse incident involving his wife.
Yet a critical figure in the drama has not been heard from. While Lee testified that he never authorized anyone to offer Mirkarimi an alternative job in exchange for his resignation, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said he was asked to do just that by Walter Wong, a well-connected City Hall insider and construction company owner known for his ability to expedite city permitting processes for clients.
Peskin has said Wong clearly indicated he was working on behalf of the Mayor’s Office and that he even came back with a counteroffer when Mirkarimi didn’t accept the first proposal. Peskin said Mirkarimi was being assured that he would be “taken care of” and that Wong suggested he could get city jobs at the Airport Commission or San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, or perhaps noncity jobs.
Several calls to Wong’s cellphone and San Francisco office have gone unreturned, and colleagues said he was unavailable due to “meetings in Chinatown.” Last week, a secretary said he was on business in China without a definite date of return. But one of Wong’s neighbors said via email that he was spotted leaving his home that same morning.
While the Mayor’s Office said Lee stands by his testimony and that the perjury accusations are the work of political opponents, Peskin says Wong presented himself as the mayor’s proxy. Mirkarimi attorney Shepard Kopp asked Lee on the stand if any “third parties” were sent to work out a deal with Mirkarimi, and a follow-up question directly mentioned Wong and Peskin.
Kopp said that because Lee is the prime mover in the effort to remove Mirkarimi, his testimony is paramount to the case. But the City Attorney’s Office is likely to argue it is Mirkarimi’s behavior — and not the mayor’s — that’s at issue in the case.
“If Ed Lee did not think Sheriff Mirkarimi was qualified to be sheriff because he committed misconduct, why did he think he was qualified to hold any city job?” Kopp argues. “If he lied under oath, it completely delegitimizes this whole process.”
Kopp said Wong’s testimony could be key to finding out what really happened.
“If he is subpoenaed and he doesn’t show up, I think everybody knows what the answer is,” Kopp said.