The Examiner recently ran an article that tells you much of what you need to know about the Ethics Commission's place in this city -- but not everything.
One year after suggesting the mayor remove Library Commission President Jewelle Gomez, Ethics put together a letter to ask how the hell that's going. But the full story is even more maddening.
See Also: Ethics Commission Must Beg Mayor to Enforce Sunshine Ordinance
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That's because Ethics didn't really "recommend" the mayor boot Gomez,
who aggressively shouted down a would-be commenter at a Library
Commission meeting. Per the ridiculous wording of our Sunshine
Ordinance, it can't really do that. Rather, "The Commission voted to
recommend that you consider taking steps to remove Ms. Gomez from her
appointed office in light of her actions," in its own words.
As SF Weekly pointed out last year, this is a sentence with three weakening modifiers with regards to axing Gomez: Ethics recommends (1) that the mayor consider (2) taking steps (3) to remove Gomez.
So, now Ethics has decided to check in. That seems redundant. The mayor's not going to do jack. Now that he's rammed through his Ross Mirkarimi three-ring circus, Ed Lee can go back to not giving a damn about the Ethics Commission. That's the status quo.
The part you want to see begins just after the 20-minute mark
The mayor's spokeswoman downplayed the Mirkarimi-Gomez comparisons to the Ex. Fair enough. One is a man who grabbed his wife by the arm and another is a woman who loudly ridiculed and castigated a complete stranger in public.
More importantly, since Gomez is not a department head, elected official, or managerial employee, Ethics cannot enforce the Sunshine Ordinance with relation to her misbehavior. Instead it must beg the person who appointed the offending volunteer commissioner -- in this case, the mayor -- to do something. This is an odd way to run a government. Or not run it, as the case may be. The mayor "was not required to act in this matter" per his spokeswoman Christine Falvey.
This epitomizes the real contrast between the Mirkarimi and Gomez cases. Even if the situations are not a match, the overstated importance of the sheriff-in-limbo's trial and the reverence shown Ethics by the mayor when it validated his move to suspend Mirkarimi is a world away from doing squat because you're "not required to act."
Ethics Chairman Benedict Hur, who signed the most recent letter to Lee, won admiration for his handling of the recent Mirkarimi hearing. He also cast the sole dissenting vote, noting that it made little sense to rule that a man committed official job-related misconduct in a job he had not yet attained. Hur also opined that the definition of "misconduct" pushed by the mayor is ominously broad.
Hur proved himself to be competent, smart, and an independent thinker. But this is San Francisco government. He will be punished for that.
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