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Vote to reinstate Mirkarimi stirs outcry

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Mayor Ed Lee said Thursday that he was “disappointed” with the decision to retain the sheriff. - BETH LABERGE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Beth Laberge/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Mayor Ed Lee said Thursday that he was “disappointed” with the decision to retain the sheriff.

The Board of Supervisors may have ended the official misconduct proceedings against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, but political fallout reverberates with talk of a recall effort, a wave of media statements and the revelation of threatening text messages from a high-ranking mayoral aide.

Observers called it a significant political defeat for Mayor Ed Lee, who had expended lots of political capital during the 10-month ordeal that began with Mirkarimi’s domestic violence incident on New Year’s Eve.

“This is a significant defeat for the mayor,” said political consultant Jim Ross, adding that it raises questions about his future relationship with the board and ability to push his political agenda.

During a brief news conference at City Hall on Thursday, Lee praised the seven supervisors who supported his effort to oust Mirkarimi, but said he was “very disappointed” with the other four.

“I believe they sought out an excuse for an inexcusable act,” Lee said.

Those four supervisors — John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Christina Olague — denounced domestic violence, but said the incident did not rise to official misconduct as defined by the City Charter. Nine votes were required to oust Mirkarimi.

Kim issued a statement Wednesday explaining her vote, and she went out of her way to note that the “electorate has every right to recall the sheriff, an action which I would support.”

Lee stopped short of advocating a recall.

To force a recall of Mirkarimi, proponents would need to gather nearly 49,000 signatures within 160 days. If certified by the Elections Department, a special election would be called. But if the effort concluded around the time of the November 2013 election, it would go on that ballot.

Lee’s District 5 appointee, Olague, was the first supervisor to indicate Tuesday that she would not support the ouster, a decision she said she arrived at days before the meeting. She asked to speak first and read from a prepared statement. On Wednesday, she said she had since been “bombarded” by people asking why she disagreed with the mayor and had received strongly worded text messages from Lee’s adviser Tony Winnicker, which she showed to a reporter.

“As your constituent you disgust me,” said one text from Winnicker, sent at 10:13 p.m. Tuesday. “And I will work night and day to defeat you.” Another, sent a minute later, said: “You are the most ungrateful and dishonorable person ever to serve on the board. You should resign in disgrace.”

Winnicker made no apologies Wednesday for the texts, saying he sent them in his capacity as a District 5 constituent. “I took the opportunity to express my opinion and extreme disappointment in her decision and judgment,” he said. “It is just that, however, my personal opinion.”

David Latterman, a San Francisco consultant who generally works for political moderates, called Olague’s surprise vote “one of the biggest back stabs I’ve ever seen.”

Olague remains embroiled in a tough election campaign in which her progressive challengers in the left-leaning district have relentlessly criticized her ties to Lee and his powerful allies, former Mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak.

Mirkarimi, who was at City Hall on Wednesday to discuss his transition back to sheriff, called his four backers on the board “courageous.” Facing a possible recall effort, Mirkarimi said, “That’s a hurdle I’ll face when we come to it. This is just another challenge we’ll have to deal with.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com