It is irrelevant whether or not Mayor Ed Lee lied during his sworn testimony in the official misconduct proceedings against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, The City’s Ethics Commission effectively ruled on Thursday night.
While commissioners said any matters of witness perjury should be taken very seriously, they all agreed that the specific truthfulness of two disputed under-oath statements made by Lee on June 29 would not impact the primary question before the commission — whether Mirkarimi committed official misconduct worthy of his removal from office.
The mayor suspended the newly elected sheriff without pay in March after Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment to avoid three other domestic violence charges against him. The charges resulted from a Dec. 31 fight with wife Eliana Lopez, who suffered a large bruise on her arm when Mirkarimi grabbed her during a heated argument over custody issues involving the couple’s 3-year-old son, Theo.
Last week, Mirkarimi’s attorney Shepard Kopp requested that subpoenas be issued for four new witnesses in the case to explore relatively new perjury allegations against the mayor. Kopp told commissioners that if they decided not to explore the new testimony, a “cloud” would hang over their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether to reinstate or permanently remove Mirkarimi.
The mayor testified last month that he never spoke with any supervisors about the March suspension before he issued it, and that he did not authorize third parties to offer Mirkarimi an alternative job in exchange for the sheriff’s quiet resignation. But both of those statements were unequivocally disputed by former and current city officials, whose voices will not be considered as part of the commission’s official recommendation.
Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser — representing the mayor in the case — said the hubbub over perjury was simply a “war of media articles” and that even though she’s confident the mayor would be exonerated of any allegations, the matter is simply irrelevant to the proceedings.
Another Mirkarimi attorney, David Waggoner, said that because the City Charter supplies no specific definition of what official misconduct means, the mayor’s discretion and specific reasoning in evoking the standard becomes important.
“His credibility, his truthfulness go to whether he exercised his discretion in a legitimate manner,” Waggoner said. “Of course it matters if any witness comes to you and lies. … What does that say about this entire proceeding?”
Shortly after the determination, the Mayor’s Office released a statement reiterating an earlier contention that Mirkarimi was simply trying to redirect public attention against Lee and away from the scandal.
“It is time for Sheriff Mirkarimi to stop creating baseless sideshows and accept responsibility for his actions and for his official misconduct,” the statement said.