As promised, we're live in City Hall where Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's official misconduct hearing will get underway in a little under an hour at 2 p.m sharp. We'll be updating throughout. You can also watch it live at SFGov.TV.
Update: 1:05 p.m.: A "Reinstate Ross" rally is currently underway on the steps outside. On our way in, we stopped to hear a couple reformed convicts and parolees talk about Mirkarimi's plan to eliminate recidivism. There were a lot of "respect Eliana" signs, and this one guy was burning an entire pot of sage.
1:15 p.m.: We thought someone brought Ross a bouquet of flowers, but it turned out they were just here for a wedding.
1:25 p.m. The sheriff's deputies aren't letting anyone into the Board chambers yet, but judging by the line outside there's some pretty good artisan ice cream behind those doors. We should point out one SFist commenter and noted twitter wonk is at the head of the line.
We're camped out with the TV newsmen outside the press area. There's some mumbling about whether or not Supervisor Mark Farrell will spend the entire hearing watching the Giants on his laptop, but the general consensus is that we could be in for a couple hours of public comment. If someone could bring us a Snickers, that'd be really great.
1:45 p.m.: Press are starting to be let in. Cameramen are comparing equipment sizes. Internet reporters are apparently second-class citizens and we've been relegated to the nosebleed pew in the back.
1:55 p.m.: Former Mayor and Mirkarimi pal Art Agnos was spotted on the steps of City Hall earlier. Readers might remember that Art let Ross crash at his house after Mirkarimi was ordered to stay away from his home in the Western Addition. Local photographer Steve Rhodes reports Agnos was a "little nervous" about the hearing, but hopes the board will vote to reinstate the Sheriff.
2:05 p.m.: Ross and Eliana have entered the room, all smiles as usual. Eliana is wearing a smart black banded dress. And we're underway, just a few minutes late.
2:10 p.m.:Board President David Chiu is explaining how this thing will go down. First the accusing party (Mayor Lee's office and the Ethics Commission) gets a 20 minute presentation. Followed by a 20 minute presentation by Sheriff Mirkarimi. After that the Mayor's office gets another 5 minute rebuttal. After that it's an endless stream of public comment followed by the Board's deliberation. At some point we might get a pee break.
Really bad sign: Supes prez Chiu already scheduling a dinner break at 6:30 for "middle" of #Mirkarimi hearing. I've died & gone to hell— Doug Sovern (@SovernNation) October 9, 2012
The Mayor's representative Ethics Commission Chairman Hur is re-hashing all the evidence Mayor Lee and the commission has piled up against Mirkarimi over the past 10 months. They've got a lot of dirt against him, basically. The crux of the argument is that Mirkarimi's conduct (pleading guilty to false imprisonment) was not very becoming of the office of the Sheriff.
Things are getting tricky because this isn't a cut-and-dry legal proceeding. Ethics Commission Chairman Hur: "I think the voters wanted this to be clear, that the official misconduct would be differentiated from personal misconduct."
2:30 p.m.: Mayor Lee's rep, Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser is up to argue the Mayor's side of the case. Her argument alleges that Mirkarimi showed an ongoing pattern of misconduct. She has three points, first: his conduct wasn't limited to the incident on New Year's. Second: there's no requirement in the charter that you have to be sworn in before you're a public official. (Mayor Lee previously argued that Mirkarimi was a public official as soon as he was elected.) Thus, the alleged misconduct occurred while he was an elected official.
Third: (and this is the big one) the alleged misconduct is directly related to the office of the sheriff. Now the gloves are coming off: incidents like this show "the public that it has a fox in the henhouse... No one wants Michael Vick in control of the Animal Care & Control department."
2:50 p.m.: Questioning the Mayor's counsel now: Pres. Chiu wants to know why this situation is so "murky." Mrs. Kaiser responds with a lesson about a schoolteacher who wanders out into a field and brings home a marijuana plant. Which: what? Apparently it's OK for teachers to grow weed if they're studying cannabis horticulture. The woman sitting next to us spilled a whole handful of sunflower seeds on the floor.
3:05 p.m.: We've spent the past half hour talking about weed and Michael Vick just to make the point that maybe the sheriff should not have a criminal conviction with a three-year sentence on his record. Mark Farrell stopped checking the Giants score for a minute to ask a question, but we're really just going in circles here.
#Mirkarimi Kaiser is botching the city's presentation, with Sups. Farrell, Kim, and Chiu all expressing that her standard is too vague.— SF Bay Guardian (@sfbg) October 9, 2012
3:25 p.m. After questions from Supes Farrell, Kim and Wiener, Deputy City Attorney Kaiser is starting to sound more and more smug. Lots of chairs are creaking and the other reporters here are furiously scribbling down some of her more aloof-sounding comments. One noted City Hall photographer for a major local newspaper was spotted checking Facebook on his Macbook Air.
David Waggoner is now up to save Ross Mirkarimi's job.
3:30 p.m.: Waggoner comes out with the sympathy card. Ross made a mistake, Ross apologized, Ross went to counseling, Ross had to be separated from his family, etc, etc. Waggoner calls on the board to decide whether to uphold or overturn the will of the voters. At least one other local blogger has commented to us that "this David Lawyer is a babe."
Waggoner: "Eliana Lopez is an independent woman who only wants justice."
3:35 p.m.: Waggoner concludes to some applause from the peanut gallery. Chiu gets to bang his gavel. Shepherd Kopp, Michael Jackson's former attorney and the owner of the slickest hair in San Francisco this side of Gavin Newsom, is up to argue.
Through his wild gesticulations, Kopp is arguing that this whole process is lengthy and absurd. No one has mentioned Kopp's hourly rate, however.
#mirkarimi attorney says mayor's definition of official misconduct too broad, says a supervisor could be removed for declaring bankruptcy— Neal J. Riley (@realdealneal) October 9, 2012
4 p.m. Eliana Lopez is starting to look grim as we head in to a seven minute break because the stenographer sprained their wrist or something.
4:15 p.m.: We're back, and Supervisor Elsbernd is questioning Team Mirkarimi.
Back underway, #mirkarimi attorney tells Elsbernd sheriff can only be judged on official duties in charter and legislation, nothing else— Neal J. Riley (@realdealneal) October 9, 2012
4:20 p.m.: 5-minute rebuttal from Deputy City Attorney Kaiser: "When a sheriff pleads guilty to that crime [false imprisonment], when he serves a three year sentence for that crime, that is his private business, and that shows a continuing failure to understand domestic violence" and the importance of that crime to the people. "It is a crime" — (met with groans from the audience).
Kaiser is proposing that Sheriff Mirkarimi put Mrs. Lopez in grave danger with his actions. The crowd groaned pretty bad at that one too. Kaiser clarifies that she is "just posing hypotheticals."
4:25 p.m. And now we're in Public Comment, we suggest everyone check the livestream to get the full picture of the wonk-itude that's about to go down. Former Mayor Art Agnos is up first, speaking in his very best gameshow host voice.
Agnos: "The elected public official in me says that this case is about untested Mayoral power" to threaten Mirkarimi's job. "As a former mayor, I know extraordinary power." After Loma Prieta Agnos put the army on the streets of San Francisco to rebuild. "No mayor should have that kind of power."
Only two public comments in and someone is referencing Gavin Newsom's cocaine habit.
The line to comment is wrapped around the edge of the board chambers. Elderly ladies get to go first because they're the cutest.
One public commenter brought a video presentation about the "unprecedented number of homicides" in San Francisco since 2004. Very The Wire-esque. Longer than two minutes though.
Now the guy who always complains about the public library is hijacking public comment to ask for the recall of Library Commission president Jewelle Gomez. (See also.)
4:50 p.m. A lady is bringing the heat: Willie Brown fathered a child out of wedlock, Gavin Newsom boned his best friend wife (our words), Fire Chief Joanna Hayes-White beat her husband (with a vase even). She's painting a pretty grim picture of corrupt San Francisco. Her point: if the Board is going to take Ross' job, they ought to at least be fair about it.
5 p.m.: Supervisor Chiu has suggested we hold applause and use the Occupy spirit fingers/jazz hands method to show silent approval of comments.
The best public comments are the ones where people explain their crappy experiences with the Hall of Justice. Judging by one gentleman's public comment, Mirkarimi will turn the San Francisco jail system into a chain of decent 2-star hotels. "He has the potential to be the president of the United States."
Getting biblical: "You [Supervisors] are the Pontious Pilate in this situation."
Jazz hands deployed:
5:15 p.m.: "Judas neighbor" brings our biblical reference count to at least three.
CBS5's Doug Sovern did the math, and it looks like we might not get out of here before Wednesday:
I just did a rough count:about 200 people waiting to comment on #Mirkarimi. At 2 minutes each, plus dinner break, that puts vote at 1am— Doug Sovern (@SovernNation) October 10, 2012
After getting cut off by the timer, this guy yelled, "I am the unknown prophet!" and left the room. You can't make this stuff up, folks:
5:25 p.m.: To give you a sense of the crowd in the Board chambers, 99% of the comments until now have supported reinstating Ross Mirkarimi. One woman gave a rational and passionate speech about how the City should not allow domestic violence in any capacity and should therefore "be progressive" by removing Mirkarimi from office. She was met with a wave of boos and hisses.
First commenter opposing #Mirkarimi, says he should have stepped down as sheriff, asks supes to be progressive by firing him.— Kate Conger (@kateconger) October 10, 2012
5:40 p.m.: After an overwhelming amount of support for the sheriff, a string of anti-Domestic Violence activists has shown up. Most of their comments allege that it is hurtful to dismiss any act of domestic violence and dismissing this case would stop later victims from reporting violence.
That said, "I am part of the Domestic Violence community" is probably not how you want to phrase that.
Another commenter countered:
#Mirkarimi supporter says most women don't agree with domestic violence advocates, says they are not in the community.— Kate Conger (@kateconger) October 10, 2012
This guy read an awesome poem about "the vampire catholic church," some dead Kennedys, animal abuse, anti-corporatism, Leonard Peltier, "the 40-day general strike" and Freedom (of course). Hope someone got that on tape:
Commenter references impeaching Bill Clinton: Drink!
6:05 p.m.: In case you were wondering where Mayor Lee was during this whole thing. He's actually over at the Metreon cutting the ribbon on the new Target:
Another heartfelt commenter attempts to bring some levity: "Who's the biggest liar: Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Chronicle, or Mitt Romney?"
6:15 p.m. One public commenter is taking The Examiner's Melissa Griffin to task for ragging on Ross in her columns. It's like an Internet commenter come to life!
We might hate on the Mayor for skipping this in favor of opening a new big box department store, but in all honesty we could use some reasonably priced home goods. Anybody know how late it's open?
6:25 p.m.: Oh good, Occupy South San Francisco showed up. Claiming there aren't more Occupiers because the police have squashed them. Also: the police, the government all "go to the same resorts together."
6:30 p.m.: SFist would like to interrupt the liveblog-in-progress to point out the Giants beat the Reds two runs to one in 10 innings to stay alive in the NLDS.
The Board has yet to break for dinner recess, but the line of commenters is winding down.
6:40 p.m.: This lady started her comment with an Aretha Franklin cover. Sadly, she misspelled "Respect" as R-S-P-E-C-T. Closed captioning confirms.
And now we're on a recess until 7 p.m. We'll be back shortly.
7:05 p.m: And we're back! A few things we overheard in the halls during recess:
- "Him and Elsbernd — they're both crooks."
- "We've got seven [votes] and if we don't, some people are gonna have to go next election."
- Supervisor Farrell (to his phone): "Hey! How are ya?" [Long pause] "...yeeeah."
Here's Ross, keeping it together under the bright lights of the local news cameras. Mrs. Lopez, meanwhile, stayed in the Board chambers.
As public comment resumes, we're getting more of the same. The majority of commenters seem to be in favor of reinstating Ross. CBS5's Doug Sovern also nailed it with his own impromptu poll:
FWIW (which is nothing), public comment is running about 6-1 in favor of sheriff #Mirkarimi— Doug Sovern (@SovernNation) October 10, 2012
7:30 p.m.: Ross Mirkarimi and his lawyers never returned to the board chambers after the recess. Judging by the line and the fact that the City Hall muscle (sheriff's deputies) kicked everyone out of the overflow rooms, there's probably about another half-hour or so of public comment left.
7:40 p.m.: While we wait out the long tail of public comment, we should point out that progressive supes (and Team Mirkarimi members) John Avalos and Eric Mar are the only ones who haven't spoken up during this whole ordeal. [Correction: We don't recall hearing from Carmen Chu or Olague either.]
7:45 p.m.: Ladies and gentlemen, we have our favorite commenter of the night: "I went to get a massage last weekend, and look at the bruise my masseuse gave me!"
Also, Mr. Cool Community Organizer:
8 p.m.: Coming up on hour six, the supervisors are starting to look a little faded. Jane Kim is swaddled in a long pink sweater like it's a snuggie or something. Campos is more or less asleep, Mar could use a happy meal and we're pretty sure Avalos is not happy that we're taking pictures:
Mark Trout, a longtime public commenter and religious fanatic that we've documented before, brings out the most controversial stance of the night: "Here's what nobody has said tonight: Man is the head of the house." Much rustling from the crowd still in attendance:
8:30 p.m.: Someone finally addressed the elephant in the room and called District 5 "NoPa". We would like to charge her with official misconduct.
Everyone in the board chambers getting a little loopy. The jazz hands are more vigorous, the commenters more impassioned, and every time the line to speak gets down to 12 or 15 people, five more show up. We're beginning to wonder if we've become trapped in some sort of Groundhog Day situation.
8:40 p.m.: At this point commenters are just bringing up every horrible act committed by city employees. We're not sure if that has any bearing on Mirkarimi at the moment, but has anybody thought about moving to Portland lately?
8:45 p.m.: Slight concern that Mark Trout might punch your SFist editor in the nose with all the fury of God and baby Jesus.
9 p.m.: We're officially in hour 7 at this point. Mrs. Lopez's attorney sums up our feelings nicely:
Eliana's lawyer says: "The best pillow is a good conscience" and asks supes to vote so they can sleep tonight.— Kate Conger (@kateconger) October 10, 2012
9:10 p.m.: Singing commenter Walter Paulson never showed up, but our old favorite Ace Washington did step up to give us soulful rendition of "Where's Willie Brown?" to much fanfare:
9:20 p.m. This woman, who we've spotted strategizing around the halls of City Hall, more or less brought down the house with her impassioned "Reinstate Ross!" speech, ending in a big chant from the peanut gallery and much gavel banging from Supervisor Chiu.
9:30 p.m. Public comment is over. (Finally.) Now we're on to comments and debate from the Supes. We could still be in for a few more hours. But we're just gonna summarize each supe's comments:
Supervisor Olague: (Mirkarimi's appointed replacement), in her usual deadpan, doesn't think the Mayor should be able to have the power or discretion to use the misconduct hearing for political gain. "I will not be supporting the motion to sustain the charges."
Supervisor Mar: "My feelings for [Ross' family] must not get in the way of my activism against domestic violence... I don't believe it's right to allow someone with a record of domestic violence to hold the office of sheriff." Mar will uphold the Ethics commission's motion to remove Mirkarimi. That's one vote for and one against.
Supervisor Campos, as he does, is dragging out his decision, quoting liberally from ethics commission president Hur's earlier reading. "There is no justification for one human being to grab and bruise another person's arm." Speaking for 15 minutes without giving us a verdict. "I will be voting against sustaining the charges."
Avalos: "I have tremendous mixed feeling about Ross Mirkarimi... He has epic accomplishments and I have also seen him as someone who has deep flaws, and I hold him responsible." Avalos believes Mirkarimi is being held accountable for his actions through probation and counseling. There's also the issue of whether the mayor can simple remove an elected official. Avalos is expressing concern for Mirkarimi's family and that the case has set the city back in terms of politics and domestic violence conversations. "I will not be voting today to sustain the charges." Three votes for reinstating Ross, one against.
Wiener: "Domestic violence is not a special interest...I will be voting uphold the recommendation" to remove Sheriff Mirkarimi. Wierner found the shots at other domestic abuse victims (i.e. Hayes-White's vase-smashed Husband) to be cheap shots. Crowd responds with disbelief. Three votes for Ross, two against.
Cohen: "I also believe we should uphold the ethics commission's decision" — that makes three for reinstating Ross, three against.
Chiu: Will vote to uphold ethics commission recommendation. "We should treat every case of domestic violence as we did this one."
Farrell: is talking about higher standards for elected officials, even though we're beyond the point where his vote matters. On the bright side, someone got kicked out for expressing his displeasure with Farrell's opinion. More talk about "coming together as a city to move forward."
Elsbernd: the termed out supe believes Mirkarimi is acting "above the law" and is guilty of official misconduct.
Kim: "I believe you can commit official misconduct before assuming the actual office, so the timing issue has been well settled here." "I remain stuck on count two- that he purported to use his power to threaten child custody."
Chu Votes to uphold the accusations.
Final vote at 10:45p.m.: 7 aye, 4 no. Charges against sheriff Mirkarimi are not sustained, and Ross gets to keep his job. Applause.
We're out of here, in search of a stiff glass of whiskey, but before we go, here is one parting shot of the soon-to-be reinstated Sheriff swarmed by the press: