As the official misconduct proceedings against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi lurch forward next week, The City’s legal bills are beginning to pile up.
The bulk of the public cost comes from the City Attorney’s Office case to uphold Mayor Ed Lee’s March suspension of the sheriff, but a final price tag for the process won’t be released until the saga is over.
But if San Francisco’s last major ethics scandal can shed any light on the situation, the drawn-out process could end up costing something in the six-figure range. While City Attorney’s Office spokesman Matt Dorsey said the existing cost of the Mirkarimi case is considered an attorney work product and therefore confidential, The City’s 2007 inquest into fraud allegations against former Supervisor Ed Jew ended up costing taxpayers $380,000.
In that effort, San Francisco attorneys spent more than 2,000 hours on the case. And although the Mirkarimi matter is procedurally different from Jew’s case, the total workload — and the involvement of both The City’s Ethics Commission and San Francisco Superior Court — appears similar.
The matter has also prompted the Ethics Commission to request $10,000 more in its current yearly budget process for professional court reporters to transcribe the proceedings. John St. Croix, the commission’s executive director, said that while simply recording audio of the commission’s meetings suffices for most of its business, contentious matters like Mirkarimi’s require a more detailed written record.
The request for the extra money prompted questions from the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, which is preparing a report on the Ethics Commission budget for a Monday presentation before the Board of Supervisors.
A memo from the budget office asks St. Croix for an explanation of the additional funding request and then asks about the timeline of the Mirkarimi hearings, to which he simply responded, “Unknown.”
The commission is set to continue with a three-day set of hearings, beginning Tuesday evening. St. Croix said another batch could occur in July. A hearing earlier this month involved a raucous crowd of Mirkarimi supporters who waved signs and heckled commissioners at times.
The commission will eventually make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which will have the final decision about whether Mirkarimi should be permanently removed from office. The mayor suspended the sheriff without pay after his guilty plea to misdemeanor false imprisonment, a charge stemming from a domestic violence incident involving his wife on New Year’s Eve.