to oust sheriff
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Two politically connected lesbians are exploring whether to launch a recall of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, whom the Board of Supervisors recently reinstated to his post despite his guilty plea in a domestic violence case.
Andrea Shorter, chair of SF Women for Accountability and a Responsible Supervisor, and political consultant Joyce Newstat are leading the effort. Shorter is a former City College trustee and was the marriage coordinator for Equality California. Newstat served as an aide to former Mayor Gavin Newsom and now runs her own consulting business.
"[I]t is clearer than ever that San Franciscans want Ross Mirkarimi removed from the office of sheriff," Shorter said in an email. "The question is not whether, but when, and how. We recognize the growing momentum and share the enthusiasm for recalling Sheriff Mirkarimi, but we also recognize the tremendous and sustained commitment of resources, energy and time such an effort requires."
She continued, "In the coming weeks we will actively work with domestic violence prevention leaders and communities across the city to assess all the options for holding Sheriff Mirkarimi and the three remaining members of the Board of Supervisors who supported his reinstatement accountable."
Supervisors David Campos, John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Christina Olague voted to reinstate Mirkarimi. Olague, who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to serve Mirkarimi's last year on the board after he was elected sheriff, lost her bid for a full term in this month's elections.
Mirkarimi was dismissive of the recall effort.
"As these two try to capitalize on a recall, we're reminded that they were both close advisers, confidants, and contributors to my opponent who came in third in the sheriff's race a year ago," he said in an email, apparently referring to defeated candidate Chris Cunnie. "I understand that losing is painful but continuing to use an issue that has been settled in court and the Board of Supervisors for a recall will cost the city and taxpayers another $3 million on top of the $2 million already spent. I believe that money would be better spent on domestic violence education and services."
As the San Francisco Examiner recently noted, Mirkarimi previously favored a recall election over Lee's attempt to remove him from office. In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter earlier this year, Mirkarimi said there are "proper democratic remedies" in place for people who don't want him to be sheriff, such as recalling him or not re-electing him.
Data from the city's Ethics Commission show Newstat contributed to Cunnie's campaign, but the B.A.R. wasn't immediately able to find financial support from Shorter for Cunnie's bid.
Department of Elections Director John Arntz said a recall could cost "around" $3 million "but maybe less."
According to the city attorney's office, the official misconduct proceedings that resulted from Mirkarimi's criminal action and subsequent guilty plea totaled about $1.3 million in attorneys' fees and expenses.
It's not clear what "growing momentum" Shorter is referring to in her statement, or where she and Newstat would get the money to pay for their efforts. Shorter has declined to answer questions from the B.A.R. , and in an email, Newstat said, "Andrea's statement says it all."
In terms of support for a recall, in her statement Shorter is likely referring to her committee's role in the defeat of Olague.
Mirkarimi served for seven years on the board before being elected to the sheriff's post. The official misconduct stems from a December 31, 2011 incident in which he bruised the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez. She has disputed the charges. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment and must complete counseling and three years of probation.
In March, Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay on grounds of official misconduct after he pleaded guilty. Lee transmitted the charges to the city's Ethics Commission and asked that Mirkarimi be removed from his job.
After several hearings, the commission in August voted 4-1 in favor of recommending to the Board of Supervisors that the official misconduct charges should be sustained. In early October, the board voted 7-4 in favor of removing Mirkarimi but the mayor needed nine votes to oust the sheriff.
Clubs not yet weighing in
The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club has previously supported Mirkarimi's ouster, but Co-Chair Martha Knutzen said in an interview last week that the club didn't have an official position on the recall.
"We haven't passed any resolutions or discussed it yet," Knutzen said, noting that it doesn't appear an actual recall process has started.
At its annual Alice Awards reception November 14, the club honored the city's Commission on the Status of Women, of which Shorter is a member; the Domestic Violence Consortium; La Casa de las Madres; and District Attorney George Gasc—n. Representatives of the organizations and Gasc—n have spoken out against Mirkarimi.
Glendon Hyde, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, which has backed Mirkarimi, said although he personally supports the sheriff, "I'm sick of talking about Ross Mirkarimi. ... I do believe there were probably some issues at home, but I don't think he should lose his job for it."
The Mirkarimi story has received much attention from city leaders and the media. Hyde said he'd rather see people focus on issues like obtaining a shelter for homeless youth in the Castro neighborhood.
"A lot of the things the city desperately needs are not getting looked at because of this," Hyde said.
Individual members may choose to act on the recall, but Hyde said, "I don't know how much the club is looking for heavy involvement one way or the other. I think we've made our position clear, and I think we can stand behind that."
Hyde, who's also known by his drag persona Anna Conda, doesn't think it's significant that two lesbians are leading the potential recall.
"I think one of the reasons lesbians are leading it is lesbians are leaders in feminist rights," he said. "... This is something they believe in, so they're leading the charge like they would anything else."
David Waggoner, Mirkarimi's attorney, said in an email, "Sexual orientation is irrelevant to the fact that a recall would be extremely divisive, expensive, and ultimately a distraction to the real problems facing everyday San Franciscans."
News of Shorter and Newstat's potential efforts was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. As the Chronicle noted, more than 50,000 petition signatures would be needed to get a recall on the ballot.