Thursday, March 22, 2012

March Madness: Public Officials Behaving Badly Edition

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 8:00 AM

It’s hard to remember a time when so many public officials in the Bay Area were caught in embarrassing situations or accused of misdeeds at the same time. Indeed, demands for resignations, whether coming from the press or the public, seem to have reached an unprecedented level.

But not every transgression is equal, of course (although many of them are depressing). So in an effort to sort out which public official has behaved the worst, the Express staff decided it was time to do some head-to-head comparisons. And to make it a bit more interesting, we decided to do it in the style of March Madness:

Here are our Elite Eight matchups:

Nadia Lockyer v. Michael Meehan. The Alameda County supervisor versus Berkeley’s police chief.

Nadia Lockyer
  • Nadia Lockyer
The Deeds: Lockyer reportedly missed nearly half of her board of supes meetings, while having time to visit her meth-head ex-boyfriend in jail and make a sex video for him. She then took her eight-year-old on a late-night rendezvous with said ex, and ended up in drug rehab. Yikes. Meehan screwed up by sending a police spokeswoman to a reporter’s home late at night to ask for a correction to an erroneous story.

Mitigating Factors: Meehan has reformed Berkeley’s police department by cracking down on police misconduct and curtailing costly overtime. Lockyer appears to have a serious illness — an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Winner: Lockyer in a walk.

Mary Hayashi v. Chris Magnus. The East Bay Assemblywoman versus Richmond’s police chief.

Mary Hayashi
  • Mary Hayashi
The Deeds: Hayashi pled guilty to shoplifting about $2,500 worth of clothing from Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. Magnus is accused of making racist remarks and discriminating against black cops.

Mitigating Factors: Magnus, perhaps the most progressive police chief in the Bay Area, has reformed Richmond’s once troubled police department, and has a strong record of promoting women and officers of color. Hayashi’s Assembly career has been somewhat unimpressive, although she has been a solid Democratic vote in Sacramento.

Winner: Hayashi is an easy pick. The allegations against Magnus look pretty weak, even if he did display some poor judgment.

David Muhammad v. Desley Brooks. Alameda County’s probation chief versus the Oakland city councilwoman.

David Muhammad
  • David Muhammad
The Deeds: Muhammad is accused of sexually assaulting one of his female deputies. Brooks engineered a no-bid deal to build a swanky teen center in her district in apparent violation of Oakland’s separation-of-powers law.

Mitigating Factors: Both maintain their innocence, and neither has been charged with a crime. Muhammad has had a successful career working with troubled black youth. And Brooks’ district really does need a good place for teens to hang out after school.

Winner: Muhammad. The allegations against him are very serious, and if it turns out that he’s guilty of sexually assaulting one of his deputies, then he could win the whole tournament.

Ross Mirkarimi v. Jean Quan. San Francisco’s sheriff versus Oakland’s mayor.

Ross Mirkarimi
  • Ross Mirkarimi
The Deeds: Mirkarimi was charged with spousal abuse and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment. A video, however, clearly shows a nasty bruise on his wife’s arm that he inflicted on her on New Year’s Eve. Quan made serious mistakes with Occupy Oakland and faces a possible recall from office.

Mitigating Factors: Mirkarimi has been a strong progressive in San Francisco, and a stalwart supporter of medical cannabis rights. His wife also maintains that he did nothing wrong. As for Quan, in her first eight months in office she delivered a balanced city budget without devastating cuts to services; got the police union to finally begin paying into its pension plan; rehired some of the laid-off cops; and selected a no-nonsense city administrator, Deanna Santana.

Winner: Mirkarimi, hands down.

Hayashi v. Lockyer. This was a close call, but Hayashi gets the nod because of her criminal conviction.

Mirkarimi v. Muhammad. Although what Muhammad allegedly did was worse, Mirkarimi wins (for now). He has admitted guilt, after all.

Hayashi v. Mirkarimi. These two make the finals because there’s no doubt they both broke the law. But Mirkarimi gets our March 2012 Public Official Behaving Badly award, because, from our perspective, domestic abuse outweighs shoplifting on the scales of justice — and ethics.

Disagree with our picks? Then tell us what you think in the comments section of this page. Please remember, though, to keep it civil, and use your real name.

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