Could a situation in which the county's sheriff has been sentenced to a day in his own jail grow any more awkward? Perhaps it can.
As Mayor Ed Lee takes stock of his legal grounds to remove Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office, he's been in close consultation with City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Herrera, however, is even closer with the possible beneficiary of a move to oust Mirkarimi -- Undersheriff Ellen Brin, whom Herrera refers to as his "cousin."
Brin and Herrera's mothers knew each other from toddlerhood; the city attorney and veteran sheriff's deputy literally grew up in each others' homes. So if Herrera gives the green light to an attempt to remove Mirkarimi from his post, his "cousin" -- the sheriff's department's No. 2 -- is not a disinterested party.
Brin and Herrera's tightness is known throughout the sheriff's department. Yet deputies we spoke with didn't see this as a factor in Brin's February elevation to the department's No. 2 spot, describing the 25-year veteran as deserving and "respected."
Messages for the Ethics Commission regarding the potential for a conflict of interest have not been returned. But it warrants mentioning that Lee need not appoint Brin to replace Mirkarimi if the sheriff is removed.
Still, as Arte Johnson used to say, "very interesting."
Update, 1:11 p.m.: When asked if there is a potential conflict of interest for Herrera in this situation, Ethics Commission Executive Director John St. Croix declined to "speculate on hypothetical situations." He noted, however, that "Under the Charter, the mayor chooses the sherriff's replacement. There is no requirement that he choose a particular person from a particular hierarchy, provided the person meets the requirements for the office."
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