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Ross Mirkarimi is for openess — mostly

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Suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, right, and his wife, Eliana Lopez. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, right, and his wife, Eliana Lopez.

California state law guards the confidentiality of records and proceedings when peace officers face disciplinary investigations.

Last month when suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was before the Ethics Commission, his attorney Shepard Kopp was asked whether Mirkarimi would be seeking such a closed hearing and this was his response, “We do not intend to argue that these proceedings need to be private. Indeed, we think they should be public. Because I think, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of innuendo and talk about the sheriff dissuading people. The mayor’s written charges say he ‘may have’ tried to get someone to dissuade a witness. And I want everyone to mark my words: when this is all done it’s going to be clear that the sheriff did no such thing. And we want that to be known to the public of San Francisco.”

Such strong words weren’t surprising given that Mirkarimi has long been an advocate of open government. He was integral to the drafting of The City’s Sunshine Ordinance and last November he supported Supervisor David Campos’ legislation to force the Ethics Commission to televise its meetings.

Yet despite his attorney’s statements on April 23, three weeks later Mirkarimi’s lawyers filed a motion related to the video of Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, tearfully discussing a bruise caused by Mirkarimi. The purpose of the request was to “prevent the City Attorney from disclosing this video to anyone other than the members of the Ethics Commission in closed session.”

The Ethics Commission denied that request, but only because the matter was still being litigated in court by Lopez — whose opposition to the release of the video was joined by Mirkarimi on May 15. The suspended sheriff can (and probably will) file another request for protective order if it looks like the video will be shown at a commission hearing that Mirkarimi’s lawyer had argued “should be public.”

In an email to the City Attorney’s Office, Mirkarimi’s lawyer David Waggoner argued that “simply because the sheriff waived his right to seek to have this entire process kept confidential does not mean that every piece of evidence or possible evidence should be in the public domain.” Funny how “unless it’s bad for my client” was not part of his lawyers’ Ode to Truth and Sunshine.

Regardless of all this action, the video isn’t even the main event. The real evidence relating to witness tampering (if there is any) is in text, emails and phone calls made after the incident. Instead of turning over those records in the name of showing all of San Francisco that “mark my words: when this is all done it’s going to be clear that the sheriff did no such thing,” his lawyers have refused at every turn to make those available to the city attorney.

Instead, they complain that the mayor has subpoena power but Mirkarimi doesn’t. Although technically true, this is really a diversion because while Mirkarimi has refused every request to date, his lawyers have yet to make any such request to the mayor, subpoena or not.

The issue is not about the mayor withholding information, it’s that the mayor shouldn’t need to subpoena texts, phone records and emails from after the incident if Mirkarimi never intimidated anyone and “wants that to be known to the public of San Francisco.”

Mirkarimi is doing a lot of talking these days, claiming he wants to tell his side of the story. All the while he is directing his lawyers to strangle the very evidence that will (supposedly) put an end to the “innuendo and talk” about how he dissuaded a witness.

Lopez has said that Mirkarimi is a “victim of very dirty politics.” Well, as Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis once wrote, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” It’s time for Mirkarimi to come clean.

Quotes of the week:

“Ed Lee is a very good friend. We probably talk to and text each other at least once a week.” — Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at last year’s Pride parade. I’m dying to see the texts she sent to Lee when she learned about Lee’s agreement with the Golden State Warriors to move from Oakland to San Francisco. In fact, consider this my official Freedom of Information Act request.

“I am introducing a request for a hearing today and it’s to have a dialogue on allocating a portion of the city’s recent unexpected revenue — I believe it was estimated from $20 million to $43.3 million dollars — in order to support the San Francisco Unified School District.” — Supervisor Eric Mar at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. I wrote last Tuesday that members of the Board of Supervisors will be clamoring for the extra revenue projected in The City’s nine-month budget status report, but even I was surprised at how quickly Supervisor Eric Mar, up for re-election in November, whipped out his pickaxe to begin mining at the mention of money.

“Jon Golinger will let our parks crumble into the sea, to help him with his race in District Three.”
— My friend mocking Golinger’s Coit Tower poem supporting Proposition B in last Friday’s S.F. Examiner. Prop. B would require all money earned at Coit Tower (some $800,000 dollars per year) be spent only on the tower, instead of being spread around to other city parks in need. The scuttlebutt is that Golinger (backed by Aaron Peskin) will be challenging Supervisor David Chiu for the District 3 seat in November and is using this proposition as a wedge issue.