On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced he was suspending San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi after the latter refused to resign following his guilty plea Monday to misdemeanor false imprisonment charges.
Article 11 of California's state constitution requires every county have an elected sheriff. It also allows charter counties, such as San Francisco, to set their own rules for the removal of sheriffs and other officials. San Francisco's Charter, in turn, proscribes a 5-step process for removal of elected officials guilty of "official misconduct":
1. The mayor starts the process by suspending the official and appointing a temporary replacement.
2. The mayor sends formal charges to the San Francisco's Ethics Commission.
3. The Ethics Commission holds a hearing.
4. The Ethics Commission makes a recommendation on removal to the Board of Supervisors.
5. The Board of Supervisors has 30 days to vote on whether to remove the sheriff. Removal requires a three fourths vote to pass. Supervisors do not have to follow the Ethics Commission's recommendation.
Because these rules are set by San Francisco's Charter, other rules apply for removal of sheriffs in other counties.