The City Attorney’s Office argued on Thursday that Mayor Ed Lee’s alleged perjury is irrelevant to the official misconduct hearing against suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.
Lee set removal proceedings in motion in March by suspending Mirkarimi without pay because he pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge involving his wife. But defense attorneys say the mayor might have lied during his June 29 testimony before The City’s Ethics Commission.
Mirkarimi’s attorneys want to subpoena four witnesses to answer questions that could contradict the mayor on two points — that he never talked to members of the Board of Supervisors before making the suspension, and that he never authorized third parties to offer Mirkarimi an alternative job if he would resign. The sheriff’s ultimate removal would require approval from nine of 11 supervisors, and discussing the matter with them beforehand is basically jury tampering in the eyes of Mirkarimi’s attorneys.
The City Attorney’s Office asserts that the mayor testified honestly and that arguments to the contrary have no relevance to whether Mirkarimi committed official misconduct worthy of removal.
“Even if these witnesses’ testimony had some relevance to the Mayor’s credibility (and it is doubtful that it would, based on the offer of proof), it would be wasteful to expend time and effort on this issue,” said a Wednesday email from Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith to the Ethics Commission.
Lee released a statement Wednesday evening imploring Mirkarimi to stop muddying the matter. On Thursday, he said Mirkarimi is trying to “create a conspiracy theory with me at the center.”
In their request to subpoena the new witnesses, the sheriff’s attorneys argue that the mayor’s decision-making process is central to the case and reflects the politically progressive Mirkarimi’s view that he is the target of a “witch hunt” by the moderate mayor.
“The primary peril of removing a democratically elected official by means other than recall is that political motivations may poison the process,” the subpoena request says. “Mayor Lee has testified that he did not file written charges of misconduct against the sheriff for any political purpose, but rather because the mayor believed it to be his civic duty to do so.”
The city attorney’s counterargument also says that one of the witnesses — Supervisor Christina Olague — should not be required to testify because she is an “ultimate decision maker.” Olague became a flash point in the proceedings when Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker — a Mirkarimi supporter — said Olague told her that Lee sought advice about the charges before they were filed.
Olague denies ever speaking to the mayor about that, as do supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Carmen Chu, Mark Farrell, Jane Kim, Eric Mar and Scott Wiener. Supervisors Malia Cohen and Sean Elsbernd, and board President David Chiu, declined to comment on the matter, citing a request by the City Attorney’s Office that they not speak publicly about a case they will ultimately decide.
Staff Writer Joshua Sabatini and Bay City News contributed to this report.