On December 31st of last year, Mirkarimi bruised his wife Eliana Lopez’s arm during an argument about Lopez visiting her family in Venezuela with their three-year-old son. Lopez discussed the incident with a neighbor, who videotaped the bruise and Lopez’s emotional account. The neighbor then reported it to the police. Originally, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office filed three misdemeanor charges against Mirkarimi, including domestic battery, child endangerment (because the couples’ son was present), and dissuading a witness. However, in March, Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to only one misdemeanor- false imprisonment. Mayor Ed Lee immediately suspended him without pay pending an ethics investigation and recommended that Mirkarimi be removed from office permanently for committing official misconduct.
On Tuesday, following a lengthy hearing, only seven out of the eleven supervisors voted to remove Mirkarimi- two shy of the nine needed to effect such a removal. Attorneys for Mirkarimi said that his conduct did not amount to “official misconduct” because the incident occurred before he was sworn into office and wasn’t related to the sheriff’s “on-the-job” duties.
But how can that be? Isn’t the sheriff’s “on-the-job” duty to protect and serve? How can someone that has been convicted of a violent crime keep a job that entrusts him with the safety of an entire county?
John Avalos, one of the four supervisors who rejected Mayor Lee’s call to remove Mirkarimi said, “…that egregious misconduct does not fall within the definition of official misconduct. We must interpret this provision narrowly, or open the door, open the door wide, for potential abuse.”
Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser said that it is “ludicrous” to think domestic violence is unrelated to the sheriff’s official duties because he oversees domestic violence programs and oversees the jails in which domestic batterers are held.
Mayor Ed Lee expressed that he “strongly disagrees” with the Board’s decision. He said
The board’s decision returns a convicted domestic batterer to lead the sheriff’s office. Domestic violence has no place in our city, will never be considered a private family matter and will never be tolerated.
Many attacked Mayor Lee’s position as overreaching, arguing, as one article put it, that he “usurped the will of the men and women who voted the sheriff into office.” Personally, I think some of those who voted Mirkarimi into office would now change their vote if they could.
Equally surprising was Mirkarimi’s victim’s response to the incident. During the months of coverage following the December 31st incident, Eliana Lopez “stood by her man.” Images of her standing next to her husband and smiling or holding a sign that read “Reinstate Our Sheriff” frequented the news. During a May interview with ABC 7 News in Caracas, Venezuela, Lopez denied reports that this violent incident was not the first. Lopez also stated, “Maybe I will get divorced from Ross, but I am very close with him in this fight. This is about justice.” She said that she thought the possible punishment of never being able to run for political office again was “fascist.”
Following the decision of the board, Lopez said, “This process has been so long and stressful…But thanks for giving me the strength to keep fighting, to say this is wrong.” Keep in mind that what Lopez thinks is wrong is removing a convicted domestic batterer from office- not her husband’s violence.