Monday, July 02, 2012

Mayor Ed Lee and The Mysterious Bomb Threat

A car bomb threat was reported at about 1:15 PM on Friday by the San Francisco Police Department at City Hall, but the only person evacuated from the building was Mayor Ed Lee.

The timing of the announcement was more than a little suspicious since Mayor Lee was ten minutes into a grilling under oath by lawyer Shepard Kopp at an Ethics Commission hearing on the fourth floor. It concerned the mayor's precipitous suspension of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from his newly elected post on account of Mirkarimi's unbecoming conduct during a fight with his wife, Eliana Lopez.

There were also perjury allegations leveled at the Mayor's testimony according to a well-done article at Fog City Journal by Luke Thomas (click here):
“Mayor Lee, before you decided to file written charges of misconduct here, did you talk to any Board of Supervisors about whether or not you should do so?” Mirkarimi defense counsel Shepard Kopp asked Lee.

“I did not,” Lee responded.

But according Building Inspection Commissioner Debra Walker, an ally of Mirkarimi and friend of Lee-appointed District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, Lee sought Olague’s opinion in March as to what she thought he should do about Mirkarimi before moving to suspend him.

It is not even certain that Mayor Lee actually left the building since he was seen going directly to his second floor City Hall office and locking the door, and did not appear in public for at least another ninety minutes. Just outside the mayor's office doorway, on the second floor rotunda balcony, a fairly large wedding ceremony was taking place, though none of the participants were told there was a bomb threat at their nuptials.

I had wandered into City Hall at about 2:30 PM to take a few photos of spectators watching the hearing on TV monitors in one of the overflow rooms, but as you can see in the photos at top, the North Light Court was empty except for a few European tourists, who also knew nothing about a bomb threat.

Neither did any of the spectators in the half-full, fourth-floor hearing room where the Ethics Commission hearing had been taking place before the supposed bomb threat. I asked an intern from the Mayor's Office what had happened, and he said that Lee's testimony had been taking place for about ten minutes, when suddenly Commission President Benjamin Hur announced an emergency adjournment. "Was there any explanation?" I asked, and everyone around me shook their heads. Almost on cue, the doors burst open, and the lawyers along with Mayor Lee and his bodyguards came marching through. Hur announced that there had been a "security threat," and the hearing continued with Mayor Ed Lee being questioned by Kopp.

Mayor Lee's answers to every question, which tended to be not much longer than "Yes" or "No" or his favorite "I don't recall," were usually preceded by about thirty seconds of uncomfortable silence as Lee worked out something in his brain. He came across as ashen and halting, even when his own lawyer Sherri Kaiser fed him a host of leading questions.

San Francisco Chronicle political attack dog and gossip columnist Phil Matier (above right) poked his head into the hearing room for about 15 minutes, then left. Since he's been distributing the official and unofficial public smears against Mirkarimi since day one in his newspaper columns, it seemed doubtful that he'd be writing about this episode in his Sunday Matier and Ross column, and he did not.

There was an article on SFGate on Saturday by Rachel Gordon and John Cote (click here) where the bomb threat is buried in the article with this paragraph:
"Adding to the drama of the unprecedented hearing, it was abruptly halted in the middle of pointed questioning of the mayor by Shepard Kopp, one of the sheriff's attorneys. Police later said there had been a bomb threat, which proved unsubstantiated, and the hearing restarted after a roughly hour-and-a-half delay."
I particularly love the use of the word "unsubstantiated" which covers a world of possible meanings. On Monday morning, incidentally, there was no follow-up of any sort on SFGate, maybe because the hearing didn't follow the accepted official narrative of Noble Lee vs. Evil Mirkarimi.

Lee's testimony was followed by one of Lee's "expert witnesses," San Diego Chief of Police William Landsdowne (above), who has proclaimed Mirkarimi unfit for office in a public declaration. His recital of how the Chief of Police and the Sheriff of any county need to be held to an impossibly high ethical standard every moment of their waking lives eventually became comical.

San Francisco is the county that has featured such recent scandals as the police drug lab mishandling and stealing evidence, undercover officers breaking into SROs and stealing from drug dealers on video, and a DNA lab which is completely tainted. Nobody in charge was fired or disciplined for these offences, but were instead promoted to keep a lid on all the messes. In contrast, the Sheriff's Department under Mike Hennessey was for decades one of the few law enforcement departments in the area where there wasn't any hint of a scandal.

Landsdowne (above, conferring with Deputy City Attorney Peter Keith) stressed how important it was for all the various law enforcement bureaucracies to work well together, "since we have to stand shoulder to shoulder at Occupy protests." At that point, many in the audience gave each other a "what the hell?" look, since no matter how one might feel about the Occupy protests, their out-of-control violence was certainly never an issue. It was law enforcement personnel around the country who were repeatedly being captured as violently out of control, including those in San Diego (click here).

None of this much matters, though, since this entire process has nothing to do with legalities and everything to do with raw politics. As commenter Greg put it on the screaming match comments board at the San Francisco Bay Guardian:
"The penalty for perjury is whatever those in power decide it should be. Who's going to charge Ed Lee if he commits a felony? [DA] Gascon? Be serious.

We need to get out of this mindset that this is a legal process.

This is a political coup backed by the theater of a kangaroo court."

It is interesting to watch how polarizing this political theater is for women. You have the three female commissioners (including Beverly Hayon and Jamienne Studley above in their colorful necklaces) who have in their rulings and remarks made it abundantly clear that their minds are made up that Mirkarimi is a satanic abuser of women. The vast majority of Mirkarimi's supporters at the public hearings are also female, and they seem to be furious that the real, serious issue of domestic violence is being cynically used against someone who bruised his wife's arm during an argument, simply because the San Francisco Police Department hates the guy.

The ramifications of these hearings are still in the air, but the public glimpse into institutional City Hall corruption has been eye opening for many San Francisco citizens. George Wooding at the Westside Observer (click here) suggests abolishing the very expensive Ethics Commission altogether, because the commissioners are all appointed by political cronies who are then supposed to be the subjects of any ethics investigations themselves. The results have been a complete perversion of the 1993 legislation's intent when creating the commission in the first place, and probably the only way to reform it is to kill the thing. It may also be the only way to get rid of the notorious Deputy Director Mabel Ng above.


Chris E. said...

This is one of your best blogs yet. From your opening paragraphs about the bomb threat that no one else in City Hall was informed about, to the unsubstantiated bomb in the Chronicle, says it all (or at least a lot of it) about San Francisco politics. I could imagine how frustrated Kopp must have been at such an obvious, staged stunt being pulled in the middle of his grilling of Mayor Lee, but what can you do? Write articles like this. Thanks.

Civic Center said...

Dear Chris E: Thanks so much for the kind words.

A friend wrote this morning with the following link from a story in the Examiner this morning by Joshua Sabatini describing the total stonewalling going on at City Hall right now about these events, including law enforcement refusing to allow tapes of the so-called threat to be released. Here's a link:

My friend continues:

But search in the Chronicle for "sheriff," and you'll find only:

Andy Griffith reported dead

Nancy Ewart said...

This is fantastic coverage - you should start a new career as a political journalist. You are that good.

mw said...

Damn good coverage. Thanks for this. The treatment and timing of that "bomb threat" is mighty peculiar. But within the bountiful cornucopia of lies, misrepresentation, half truths, hidden agendas, blind ambition, and outright corruption regularly offered up by our elected city officials,this subterfuge to give our unprepared and inarticulate mayor time to get his act together strikes me as pretty small potatoes.

Despite your excellent reportage, I do think you've led your readers astray on a key point. Let's start with the basics:

"... this entire process has nothing to do with legalities and everything to do with raw politics." - SFM

Of course it is a purely political process. It cannot be otherwise. Electing a mayor, a supervisor, or a sheriff is a political process. The Ethics Commission is made up of purely political appointees. The rules for removing an elected political official before completion of their term are political rules created, for better or worse, by politicians just in case they find it necessary to remove one of their own - or - to permit voters to remove a politician from office by recall. Both are purely political - not legalistic - processes.

There is no judge or jury, only a vote of the electorate or the elected can remove an elected official from office. As you say - raw politics. So it is with the President of the United States via impeachment and a vote in the Senate. So it is locally via a decision by the Mayor and Ethics commission to put it before a vote of supervisors.

Quite correctly the bar has been set quite high to remove an elected official. Nine of the eleven Supervisors must vote to remove an elected official from office. A recall vote is also very difficult to force. A lot of signatures must be raised in a short period of time. Those are the political rules of the game. Keep in mind, the Ethic Commission does not decide whether Mirkarimi is fit to remain in office. They only make the political decision whether the Board of Supervisors will be permitted to make the political decision of Mirkarimi's fitness for office. Raw politics is the only way.

No it is not a legal process. A legal process is used to determine criminal guilt, not fitness for office. The commission has chosen to use the trappings of a legal process simply because they are convenient rules of the road and understood by all. But it is worth remembering that there already was a completely "legalistic process". Mirkarimi was accused of endangering a child, abusing his wife, and dissuading a witness. He copped a plea and admitted guilt. Guilty. By his own admission. That is your legalistic process. Guilty. By his own words. If it was up to me, that is sufficient cause to put it to a vote of the Supervisors whether he is fit for office. But that is not the way the game is played here.He gets another chance to prevent that political vote via the additional political process of the Ethics Commission. So be it.

Even if the Ethic Commissions permits the vote by the BOS that we citizens of SF deserve, I expect he'll get three votes and beat it.

So then there will be one political process left. Recall. I think that process can start Friday. I'd like to be the first signature on that petition.

mw said...

... and yes I am trying out a rough draft for a post of my own.

Civic Center said...

Dear mw: Good rough draft.

My biggest problem is that after witnessing the whoremongering Willie Brown, Jr. and Gavin Newsom engaging in "the bountiful cornucopia of lies, misrepresentation, half truths, hidden agendas, blind ambition, and outright corruption" over the last decade-plus, it's stomach churning to watch them pose as holier-than-thou through their designated bureaucratic enabler, Mayor Lee.

Now if somebody would take out a recall petition against Lee, the blatantly crooked Chinatown electioneer, I'd be more than happy to be the first signature. We could have dueling recalls and maybe get rid of them both, or maybe even keep them both. In fact, I thought you were the serious advocate of Divided Government as a Good Thing. Right now, City Hall is looking more and more like an old-fashioned disorganized crime organization where the rule of omerta is paramount, all while paying lip service to "transparency."

Ann Garrison said...

Great report. Especially appreciated your use of the quotation from the Bay Guardian comment section. I'm going to start following your blog.

Ann Garrison said...

Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute. . . I just read this again, and I still think your descriptions of the scene, what happened, the mayor and others' demeanor, expressions, and articulations was very good.

But, this is not factual:

Mirkarimi was accused of endangering a child, abusing his wife, and dissuading a witness. He copped a plea and admitted guilt. Guilty. By his own admission.

Ross Mirkarimi did not plead guilty to endangering a child, abusing his wife or dissuading a witness. That is what he was accused of. He did not plead guilty and was not convicted of any of those crimes. He pled guilty to false imprisonment, an obscure misdemeanor and admitted that he had bruised her arm when he grabbed it to keep her from leaving the car.

Civic Center said...

Dear Ann: That comment was by mw, not me, so your factual objection is with him. Mirkarimi has been accused of everything but collecting abused women's panties for satanic rituals, so I haven't been giving his accusers much factual credit.

Ann Garrison said...

Yes, my apologies. This is so good that I revisited it, looking for a particular description and made the mistake of thinking the at length commenter was you. Hazard of scanning. Now here I am again, because it did stay in my mind - while I slept a few hours - that I couldn't have been right about that.

Victronix said...

Does anyone have another source for the statement that Lee did not leave, but went to his office? I'm documenting this on his wikipedia page, which has almost nothing on the man. Has he really done *nothing* as mayor so far? That would be the impression from his page. Meanwhile Mirkarimi's page is full of the many things he's accomplished.

Civic Center said...

Dear Victronix: Lee not leaving City Hall is merely a rumor, as far as I know, so I wouldn't put it on Wikipedia. The rumor stems from nobody having actually see him exit the building, or if they did, that fact hasn't been announced publicly, and at this point nobody is believing a word his official spokesperson says.