Saturday, August 18, 2012
Indecency, Bad Faith, and Wrong Action
If it was not so dispiriting, the Ethics Commission deliberations on Thursday afternoon would have been grotesquely funny in their constant absurdity. The five-member commission was deciding, after a series of inflammatory hearings dating back to April, whether Sheriff-Elect Ross Mirkarimi should be booted out of office for bruising his wife's arm during an argument on New Year's Eve, and whether that fell below the standards of "decency, good faith, and right action" required of a public official.
The only problem was that nobody really knew what "official misconduct" meant, or whether "relating to the duties of the office" applied to misbehavior that occured before Mirkarimi started his Sheriff's job. To add to the complications, Mayor Ed Lee and City Attorney Dennis Herrera had cooked up a whole bowl of charges to throw at the wall to see what might stick, so the Commission had to address "dissuasion of witnesses" and whether it was misconduct to turn in guns to the Sheriff's Department rather than the Police Department, and so on and so forth. Chairman Benedict Hur above did his best to bring some sanity into the proceedings, but it was a losing effort.
It was difficult to look at anything but Jamienne Studley's monster shell necklace during all her close-ups, as she clucked her tongue at Mirkarimi's bad behavior, and lectured him on why didn't he just behave this way instead of that way? There were theological arguments about misconduct as opposed to official misconduct, and Studley offered various analogies, each more idiotic than the last. The analogy attempts were topped by Commissioner Paul Renne's contribution: "Joe Paterno didn't do anything illegal in that Penn State case, but you would have to call it official misconduct," demonstrating his dubious lack of expertise in criminal law after decades of representing PG&E for his downtown firm.
Renne joined Commissioners Studley, Deborah Liu and Beverly Hayon (above, looking like she was going to an Austin Powers Theme Party) in dismissing virtually all of the Mayor's charges against Mirkarimi, but somehow managed to "sustain the charges" by making up a new one of their own, "this section of #4, and a bit of #1, or is it #5, and are we discussing Option 1 or Option 2 here?" It was cluelessness squared that ended in complete chaos, rather like the Act One finale of a Rossini comic opera where all the characters separately sing, "I don't know what to think, I'm in such confusion." It was such a mess that the Commission will have to meet again to try and hammer out some kind of coherent report for the Board of Supervisors, who are next in line at this public inquisition.