Ethics

Ben Hur, Ethics Chair during Mirkarimi Controversy, to Leave Ethics Commission

Natasha Dangond/Ingleside-Excelsior Light

Ethics Commissioner Ben Hur’s term will officially be over tomorrow when the Assessor-Recorder swears in his replacement.

Hur, a graduate of Stanford and a lawyer at Keker & Van Nest where he litigates disputes related to intellectual property for major companies, completed his six-year term on the commission in February.

The hearings related to the mayor’s complaint about the conduct of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi defined Hur’s term.

“It was challenging,” Hur said. “There were no rules for how a misconduct hearing should be done and obviously there was a lot of press coverage. It was an exercise in making the process fair as we went.”

The commission had to determine if Mirkarimi should be taken out of office and Hur was chair.

“After looking at the law and evidence, we were interpreting law,” Hur said. “I was the dissenter—not that his conduct was good—but it should not have been grounds for removal.”

There were half a dozen hearings and many lasted hours and required much advanced preparation. Hur estimated that the commission spent over 100 hours on the matter.

“Commissioner Hur has brought so much to the commission,” said Jesse Mainardi, who was the commission’s Acting Executive Director through December. “He is extremely intelligent, fair-minded, and hardworking. He will be missed.”

“The commission is doing a good job—but of course I’m biased there,” he said. “We worked together. Generally, in the last few months we have been more proactive. But we can definitely get better. The commission has an opportunity to do great things.”

Hur thinks the commission should do more up front training for new commissioners, suggesting that even a half-day training with the City Attorney’s office would be a benefit.

Moreover the commission needs to work on the whistleblower program, Hur said, which is a position backed by the Friends of Ethics advocacy group.

“Though it is a little outside the core area of campaign finance and such, it is part of the mandate,” Hur said. “Cases could be handled with more commission involvement. There’s too much staff discretion.”

The open-ended in investigation period needs to be constrained.

“We need to provide justice in a timely fashion for the accuser and accused.”

Particularly important to Hur is the commission’s new website spearheaded by staffer Stephen Massey.

“Part of our function is transparency. Disclosure doesn’t matter unless people can see it,” Hur said.

Hur was appointed in 2010 by then-Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting. Hur has urged Assessor Recorder Carmen Chu to replace a strong candidate to his seat.

As to what makes a strong candidate, “it helps to be a lawyer, but I’m biased,” Hur said. “Diversity is important in terms of gender, race and age.”

His idea of a good commissioner is someone who will share views and debate.

“That the commission is one six-year term is critical. It could be easy to be influenced by politicians,” Hur said.

Observers have speculated Hur has his eyes on the bench. But Hur denies he is interested in becoming a judge.

“No, not interested, he said. “I wouldn’t rule it out though.”

Tomorrow, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu will appoint attorney Daina Chiu to the Ethics Commission. The swearing in ceremony will be tomorrow Thursday, April 21, 2016, 10:30am to 11:00am at the Office of the Assessor-Recorder City Hall, Room 190.

Correction: an earlier version of this article misspelled former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s name.

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