No, it is not significant that Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced Tuesday that he would not accept a taxpayer-provided paycheck on the days he does not work because he is sitting in court on trial for domestic abuse. This is just about the absolute minimum he could offer in the wake of criminal charges against one of the county’s highest-ranking public safety officials. Certainly, it is nowhere near as meaningful as it would have been to take a leave of absence until the conclusion of his trial on three misdemeanor charges — now set to start Feb. 24 — or to simply resign.
What does appear to be a significant breakthrough is that for the first time, he has shown signs of understanding the seriousness of the charges and the effect on his career. Until now, the sheriff came across as if he believes denying all criminal charges will somehow make the crisis disappear.
Apparently it took a closed-door Tuesday meeting with Mayor Ed Lee in Room 200 to force Mirkarimi to finally make a decision on whether the Sheriff’s Department would be negatively impacted while he is dealing with his court case. The mayor had said earlier that at this phase of the case, he would leave it up to Mirkarimi to decide whether to step aside.
After what Mirkarimi described as a “cordial” discussion with the mayor, he talked with waiting reporters, and when asked about temporarily stepping down during the trial, he replied, “We’ll see if it comes to that. We’ll see.”
However, Mirkarimi still denied his troubles “could be some sort of distraction” to “doing exactly what we need to be doing” as sheriff. This has always been a standard defense by politicians in trouble: My enemies must cease these petty accusations so I can return to doing the people’s important business.
Mirkarimi would be doing himself, and everybody else, a favor by recognizing it would be difficult to continue as The City’s elected sheriff. If he is resoundingly cleared of all charges, he would need to work hard to rebuild the trust of the public, city officials and those who work for him. Mirkarimi should resign, as The City deserves a sheriff who is allowed to be armed, not possibly subjected to anger-management classes, and solely dedicated to his newly elected position.