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Panel meets to set rules in sheriff's ethics case

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 file photo, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, right, and his wife Eliana Lopez walk away after speaking to reporters at City Hall in San Francisco. On Wednesday, April 18, 2012, the suspended sheriff is disputing prosecutors' version of the events that led to domestic violence charges against him, saying much of the District Attorney's case was a fabrication. FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 file photo, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, right, and his wife Eliana Lopez walk away after speaking to reporters at City Hall in San Francisco. On Wednesday, April 18, 2012, the suspended sheriff is disputing prosecutors' version of the events that led to domestic violence charges against him, saying much of the District Attorney's case was a fabrication. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
April 23, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO—The city ethics commission met Monday to set the ground rules for the misconduct case against Ross Mirkarimi, the sheriff who was suspended after being charged with domestic violence.

The meeting of the five-member commission came after months of drama surrounding the former city supervisor and recently elected sheriff.

Mirkarimi pleaded guilty last month to one count of misdemeanor false imprisonment after being accused of bruising the arm of his wife, Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez, during a dispute on New Year's Eve.

Prosecutors originally charged him with misdemeanor domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness after a next-door neighbor turned over a video to police showing a tearful Lopez displaying a bruised arm.

Mirkarimi is fighting Mayor Ed Lee's effort to suspend him without pay and permanently remove him from office. Mirkarimi argues the domestic violence charges were politically motivated.

John St. Croix, the commission's executive director, recommended the advisory body solicit briefs from Mirkarimi's lawyers and the San Francisco city attorney before scheduling hearings for oral arguments and possible witness testimony.

Commissioners met to consider St. Croix's recommendation Monday and to set a timetable for the proceedings.

After hearing evidence, the commission is required to forward its findings to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, which would make the final decision on whether the sheriff should lose his job.

Nine of the 11 supervisors would have to agree for Mirkarimi to be permanently removed.

Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, emphasized that the commission is charged with evaluating the evidence from an ethical, not legal, perspective.

"I think that from an ethical perception, when you step into the public sector, you open yourself to public scrutiny," Nadler, former mayor of Santa Clara, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's important to have a body that can look at specific ethical ramifications and conflicts, because there can be things that are legal but unethical."

Mirkarimi has said he accidentally bruised his wife while they were arguing over whether she could take their 3-year-old son to Venezuela for an extended stay.

Mirkarimi claimed his son panicked when Lopez left the car and tried to get him out of his car seat. Mirkarimi said he put his hand underneath her arm to bring her back into the seat.

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