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Mirkarimi Won't Take Pay While on Trial

Mayor faces complicated legal path if he wants to remove sheriff

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told reporters Tuesday that he would not take pay while he is on trial for domestic violence next month. And in a private meeting with Mayor Ed Lee, Mirkarimi said he would consider taking a leave of absence, the mayor’s spokeswoman said.

Mirkarimi made the comments about his salary after the meeting with the mayor at City Hall.

"I think it's only principled that I would not take pay while I'm in trial," he said.

Mirkarimi described his meeting with the mayor as "cordial." He said the mayor is "rightfully" concerned because "the perception is this could be some sort of distraction."

When asked whether he would step aside during the trial, Mirkarimi replied, "We'll see if it comes to that. We'll see."

"We are doing exactly what we need to be doing" in the sheriff's department and "it's very important that I stick to the duties I've been ascribed to do," Mirkarimi said.

But according to the mayor’s spokeswoman, Christine Falvey, Mirkarimi told Lee he would consider taking a leave of absence before his Feb. 24 trial on domestic violence charges.

The meeting between the mayor and the sheriff came one day after new allegations of domestic violence by Mirkarimi surfaced in the media. An ex-girlfriend filed a report with San Francisco police over the weekend claiming the then-supervisor grabbed her arms more than three years ago, pinning her against a wall and screaming in her face. The San Francisco Chronicle first identified the woman as Christina Flores.

Mirkarimi's lawyer, Robert Waggener, acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that Mirkarimi had a relationship with Flores that ended poorly, but said it was never abusive.

“They did not have an abusive relationship, and Mr. Mirkarimi is not an abuser,” Waggener said.

He added that Flores is on the list of witnesses who may testify during Mirkarimi’s domestic abuse trial.

Earlier Tuesday, Lee said at a press conference that he would ask Mirkarimi to consider stepping aside, but would not "put pressure" on the sheriff.

“I think it’s appropriate that he make a decision himself first on whether he would consider a leave of absence,” Lee told reporters outside a Tenderloin restaurant, where he was holding a news conference on another matter.

“I'm not a political person. I don't put pressure on anybody," Lee said.

Lee said the sheriff "has enough" pressure already. “I’ll just remind him that as public officials, that perhaps give some consideration to the public and the staff and the people that work in that department and the public that needs the services of the department undisturbed,” Lee said.

Mirkarimi is set to face trial beginning Feb. 24 for charges related to a domestic dispute on New Year's Eve during which he allegedly injured his wife, Venezuelan television actress Eliana Lopez. He pleaded not guilty last week to misdemeanor charges of domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness.

Asked whether he would give Mirkarimi a deadline to decide whether to step aside temporarily, Lee suggested that he expected Mirkarimi to make a decision before the trial begins.

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