Friends Should Tell Friends When to Resign

A recent Mercury News editorial called on Supervisor George Shirakawa to resign based on the revelations reported by Josh Koehn in the Metro. Shirakawa’s actions included misappropriating taxpayer money, fraudulent reporting of expenses, misuse of campaign donations and failure to file the appropriate financial documents after repeated warnings.

It is right and proper the Mercury News came to its conclusion based on the overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing. Supervisor Shirakawa should resign. But it is a painful conclusion, because I support George’s political agenda.

It is always easier to ask a person whom you disagree with politically to resign. It is easier to call out opponents on their transgressions. But what happens when the elected official is a friend or supports your political agenda?

When Chuck Reed misappropriated taxpayer money—reimbursing himself for political meetings while a City Councilmember—the outrage came from a different sector of the body politic. When Rose Herrera’s past fraudulent conduct was revealed, there were no calls from her side of the aisle for resignation. On the contrary, supporters dismissed these actions as lapses in judgment and rationalized them as unethical personal attacks made during a campaign.

While distinctions can be drawn on the conduct, when it was made and what appropriate level of corrective action—from simple apology to legal indictment—the fact remains that unethical behavior should be repudiated by all elements of the body politic.

There are no perfect people in public office. Nearly everyone will make a mistake. Not every unethical incident or revelation of bad judgment should require a resignation. But certainly we must apply the same standards of ethical conduct to our friends and political opponents. Ethical behavior is not a partisan issue.

That said, Shirakawa’s actions have clearly crossed the line and even his friends and supporters should help him reach the inevitable conclusion. His recent outburst that the scandal is a “political lynching” is sad.

If it is a hanging, it was George who held the rope. There is no one else to blame for his situation.

Some Shirakawa supporters have asked he be given due process before any final determination is made. But the evidence is clear by his own admissions, and the facts regarding impropriety are not in dispute. Some people don’t want to be considered disloyal friends or in the position of kicking someone when they are down. These are laudable, if misguided, motives.

Friendship and loyalty demand honesty. Shirakawa cannot make things right now. A person cannot be acquitted of bank robbery, even if he gives the money back after being caught. Shirakawa has violated the public trust and his friends and supporters need to help him do what is right for the public.

There is no denying that this is a painful episode for those of us who helped him get elected and supported his views over the years. But it is absolutely necessary to end this quickly for the benefit of his constituents, for the county he serves and for the issues he has always championed.

Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valle. He previously worked on George Shirakawa’s 2008 supervisor campaign.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

28 Comments

  1. Good call Richard.  I don’t know George and never really met him.  But if the famous saying about Democracies end with the applause to a dictator, then surely corruption is allowed with a wink and a node to the well connected.

  2. Shirakawa has hired the same lawyer that the water district used to change Measure B’s ballot text 2 weeks after the deadline for changes had past.  Coincidence?

    The perception is that there is one set of laws for the public and another set of laws for government and for the people in government.  That perception isn’t going to change with Shirakawa resigning.

  3. NAILING GEORGE TO THE WALL, WILL NOT ERASE THE SINS OF THE CITY. JAIME ,BLANCA THROWING STONES AT GEORGE, COME ON!
    HAVE’NT WE ALL BEEN LOOKING THE OTHER WAY WHEN SOME POLITICAL SCAM HITS THE FAN!
    SOMEONE UP THERE NEEDED GEORGE, AND SO THERE HE WENT UP THE PETER PRICIPAL LADDER.
    IT’S HAPPENING AS I TYPE, IN THE EAST SIDE.
      WHERE DID ALL THESE ZIPPER LANES COME FROM, ANYWAY!
    I GIVE GEORGE THANKS, FOR ALL THE GOOD HE LEVERAGED ALL THESE YEARS.
      WHAT? , HE BOUGHT DINNERS AND A COUPLE OF BUDS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS, CHIEFS OF POLICE. IT WAS’NT LIKE HE TOOK 6 MILLION FROM THE CITY KITTY, OR BOUGHT A PLASTIC SNAKE FOR 1/2 MIL OR A BRONZE HORSE
    I SEEM TO RECALL THIS KIND OF FEROUSITY WHEN GARZA WAS WHACKED YEARS BACK. LOOK AT THAT SITUATION NOW IN THE NORTHSIDE.
    THE MERC HAS SPENT THAT MUCH ON THE INK TO BLAST A GUY WITH A RUNAWAY P CARD. SO, WHERE’S THE BEEF!
    GIVE US SOMTHING BESIDES BEANS AND RICE!
      FOLLOW THE REAL MONEY!DAAA!
    IN A FEW DAYS WE WILL CELIBRATE THE FOUNDING OF THE PUEBLO DE SAN JOSE DE GUADALUPE.
    SUNDAY, OUR HIKING GROUP,THE ZAN A ZAY SIDE WALKERS WILL HIKE THE BARBARY COAST TRAIL THROUGH CHINA TOWN. SAN JOSE HAS A LONG WAY , TO CATCH UP TO SAN FRANCISCO AND IT’S NEFERIOUS COLOERFUL CHARACTERS.
    THEY WRITE BOOKS ABOUT THEIR SINS. SAN FRANCISCO HAS STYLE!
    MERC, LET’S CATCH UP, OK?
    HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
    GO NINERS!!

    THE VILLAGE BLACK SMITH

  4. Robinson “agreed with his agenda”? But squandering and misappropriating taxpayer dollars is the entire foundation of the Democrat agenda. George’s only error was that he didn’t think big enough.If he’d only understood that to be a sucuccesful career Democrat you have to throw money away by the millions rather than the hundreds he’d be given a free pass.

  5. Resignation in disgrace would be too easy when he makes reference to a “media lynching”.

    He should be prosecuted, but we know that won’t happen due to politics.

    And the slimy paper acting like the had crack reporters breaking the new when in fact Josh broke the story and handed it them on a silver platter.

    All this after the majority voted to pass the ballot measure to put more money in their pockets.  Let have another vote,  IT’S CALLED …..RECALL.

    Then we need to fire all the clowns who are responsible for managing these flagrant abuse of free credit cards.

  6. Lets hope that the disgraced Shirakawa listens to his friend Mr Robinson in his call for resignation.

    If for not other reason Mr Shirakawa to salvage the name of your father who is being smeared by the mud and stink that is all over you.  You are his namesake yet you are nothing like your father.  Muster all your strength and resign.  Then go look for a real job and work your way out of bankrupcy.  You, sir, are a huge political joke and will never again be taken seriously by anyone in the political sphere or by the voters. Even seeing you out in public in the Eastside will be painful because people will naturally shake their heads at your utter lack of shame for your misdeeds.

    You have ONE redeeming move at this point and that is to resign immediately and beg the forgiveness of the people who trusted in your leadership.

  7. Rich,
    There is no moral equivalence—or even resemblance—between Shirakawa’s conduct and Herrera’s. If anyone clicks-through the link that you provided, you’ll see that Labor attacked Rose from listing herself as “single” on forms many years after she legally separated from her then-husband.  They did not live together at that time, and had no intention of reuniting—they were separated, and 99% of separated spouses would have done the same thing.  Those attacks on Herrera were specious.  You’re citing THAT as a “transgression” for which allies of Rose’s were supposed to repudiate her?  Is it possible that as the paid consultant for Herrera’s opponent in the last race, you’re not an objective observer?

    • Sam,

      Clean your own house before you talk about others.  Your all liars, Shirakawa’s expenses pales to the san jose city council.  Love how you all give excuses and just sweep everything under the rug.

    • Sam,

      The timing of the transfer of Rose’s assets, the BK filings and the distance between separation and dissolution make the prima facia case pretty clear.  No defense has been offered—and if I’m sure none will be forthcoming.

      Further the findings and subsequent court orders and stipulations in the civil fraud case against Rose speak to less than honorable behavior—though a civil action is not a crime per se.

      Moral equivilancey is a relative and loaded term.  Obviously, every situation is different as I noted in the blog.

      But no one has or should deny that Rose’s civil fraud and the transfer of property before the BK were not inappropriate behavior.  One can argue—moral equivilency and appropriate recompense—in the civil fraud it amounted to 10K plus interest as per court order.

      But the larger point remains—and it becomes more poignant in your defense of Rose.  Partisanship has replaced objectivity in the body politic when it comes to bad behavior.  People tend to rationalize and defend their friends, while excoriating those who they oppose.

      For instance, when PLO was caught stealing the No on Measure V signs—where was the simple statement from yourself or the Mayor that PLO was wrong.  Instead, people rallied around the fiction that he was doing code enforcement a favor.  Really?

      What should have been said, by the Chamber, the Mayor and even yourself is that PLO was wrong to steal the signs.  That kind of campaigning has no place in our free society.  We continue to believe in the merits of our cause—but condemn the actions for anyone who would try to limit the speech of our opponents.

      That would have been the right thing to do.  But instead we have this fictional and contrived rationalization—that nobody believes—that he was cleaning up the neighborhood.  And the silence from those who support PLO was deafening.

      As Dante said, “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.”

      In short, we can agree on issues and disagree on issues.  But we should unite when someone clearly crosses the line into unethical behavior.  It would improve the credibiility of the process we all depend to choose our leaders and determine much of our policy.

      P.S.  I wasn’t my intention to soley pick on PLO, it was just one of many examples of incidents where good people who disagree could come together and say—“that person croseed a line.”

      • “Partisanship has replaced objectivity in the body politic when it comes to bad behavior.”

        In 2008 the Santa Clara County Central Labor Council, the San Jose Police Officer’s Association, San Jose Fire Fighters, and Local 230 the Association of Retired San Jose Police Officers & Firefighters all enthusiastically endorsed Ms. Herrera for city council.

        In 2012 these same groups along with Mr. Robinson now tell voters in a vicious campaign that Ms. Herrera has committed fraud years before 2008 and she is suddenly unfit for office.

        Why?  All because she voted to put measure B on the ballot to let San Jose residents vote on the issue.

      • Also, acknowledgement of an unethical act need not include repudiation. 

        Second,  I am a partisan and engage in actively in the politics of trust. 

        That has included some hard-hitting messages.  But they are grounded in fact.  Though lying often occurs in politics; I reject it as winning strategy in all of my campaigns.  I run principled campaigns and do not believe my opponent—including and especially Rose—are my personal enemies.

        That does not mean I have never personally made a mistake—as anyone who reads this blog and my comments can attest.  Many of those who read my comments are only too happy to point it out when it occurs.  But I try to respond quickly to any error and correct it as soon as it becomes apparent to me.

        As Jack Kennedy said, “an error does not become a mistake unless you refuse to correct it.:   

        Ghandi said, “a sincere promise followed by a promise never to do the act again is the highest form of contrition.”

        Both of these quotes imply that that personal responsibility be taken by those who make errors of judgement.  It is something we should all consider incorporating in our daily ethos as we all work to make our world, nation, state and community a better place.  grin

      • Rich,
        I don’t endorse or engage in taking anyone’s campaign signs.  There’s a simple reason why I didn’t speak up, however: Pierluigi clearly stated that he was removing them from park strips, medians, and other public property, an act that is completely lawful. I’ve seen no evidence that he took the signs from any where else.  ANY citizen can remove campaign signs from medians.  Why? Because campaigns signs cannot be planted in those locations—they’re public property.  There is no ordinance or law prohibiting the signs’ removal in such circumstances. 
        Rich, context is critical in each of these examples, and in many cases distinguishes lawful from illegal behavior.  Let’s all take a deep breath and halt the finger-pointing, because inevitably finger-pointing on blogs and in the media comes without the necessary context to fully understand a situation.

        • Sam, the problem with taking a deep breath is a lie comes out of your mouth when you exhale.  Is this something you are thought by Chuck?

          How about telling PO not to post all his lies and worthless thoughts on his blog.  Forgot you, don’t speak up, instead you stand behind his lies.  Sounds like you believe everything the council does is LAWFUL, at least till it get overturned in court.

        • Not to belabor the point.  But people do not have a “right” to take the property of others and allowing—as a policy—people to take political signs from “public” property is a slippery slope.

          My understanding is that policy was adopted after the fact.  But if a person has a call full of signs—how do we know they were all from “public property”?  Moreover, the property must be returned to the rightful owner.

          I a car is illegally parked in a public place blocking your driveway—you have a right to remove it.  You don’t have a right to destroy it or steal it.  There is no evidence at all that PLO would have given the signs back.  He had never returned any previously and many people have had their political signs taken while on their private property.

          I agree we should put things in context.  The reason I used the PLO example wasn’t to establish criminality, it was to highlight that taking poltiical signs or denying anyone their right to free speech is wrong.  At some point, sign stealing is going to get someone hurt when they mistake “public” property for “private” or when passions become so intense that rational people make poor judgements.  I could cite one case where that has already happened.  It is a bad policy—adopted to protect a public official who was clearly in the wrong.

          If you see a sign on public property, the appropriate action is to call code enforcement—not do it yourself.  And PLO was clearly targeting only No on Measure V signs.  The intent was to remove speech from his political opponents—and it was wrong.

          The after-the-fact rationalization lacked veracity.  That’s not finger pointing—those are facts.  But, again, the PLO incident is an example of a larger problem.  The goal is for everyone in the body politic in unison to agree to speak out when bad behavior happens and not to simply justify a bad act because that person happens to agree with you politically.

        • Hi Rich,

          These are a lot of words for not.

          I’ve been a public official in three county cities and have dealt with most.  As far as I know, most if not all cities allow citizens to remove illegal signs posted in public right of ways or public property.

          This is just San Jose, being San Jose. A very insecure and self – focused city that doesn’t really look beyond its own border for best practices. 

          Should the signs have been taken down from a political point of view?  Probably not. Was it illegal.  Probably not.

          Move one. Nothing to see here but a lot of political talk.

        • Norm,

          Stealing signs is wrong.  The policy is bad.  Defending the indefensible because one supports the political agenda of the transgressor should cease.  Ethical conduct should not a partisan issue.

          (Fewer words)  wink

        • Isn’t there a principle that no one should benefit from breaking the law?  If a sign is posted illegally, then someone benefits.

          Does a litterbug have any property rights for the stuff thrown out the window of a car?

    • Sam,

      You could not have made Rich’s point any better than by your defense of Herrera. At a typical lawyer, you have tried to take attention away from Herrera’s total transgressions by making this solely about her marriage status. It is a much bigger issue than that, as you realize, and Rich did not even broach the subject of Herrera’s campaign illegally accepting $100,000 in campaign contributions from Mayor Reed.

  8. Rich came to the right conclusion but diluted his point by equating George Jr.’s years of theft in an official capacity with Chuck Reed’s reimbursements for attendance at community events and memberships in community groups while a councilman. Even though it was common practice by other councilmembers, Reed promptly apologized and reimbursed, something George Jr. has not. Rose Herrera’s activities pre-dated her election and had nothing to do with malfeasance as an officeholder. Pierluigi’s sign removal was not a matter of official misconduct or personal financial benefit, just some freelance code enforcement. None of the examples cited rise to the level of George’s activities. Now let’s talk Terry Gregory…

    • Despite your reputation as an “insider”, I don’t think you’re really an “insider”.  We had the P-card report on Thanksgiving week.  The follow up report will be on December 20.  It’s clear to anyone with half a brain that the fix is in.  Shirakawa is getting off.

      The Merc can huff and puff all day long, and Shirakawa will still get off.  They did their part.  They got Measure A passed.  Now they can pretend they know something about oversight.

  9. Rich,Thank you for mentioning Chuck Reed’s misappropriation of public money during his stint as the District 4 councilman. Reed and his supporters continue to deny wrong doing in the matter and are quick to point out that Reed repayed between “$15k-$38K” which closed the matter.

    I have mentioned this on SJI in other posts and in several other forums. I suggest that what was good for Chuck is good for George. Shirakawa should quickly repay all money charged to the “p” card in violation of law/policy and demand that the matter be closed just as it was in the case of Chuck Reed!

    Instead of the “race card”  or the “I represent the economically oppressed” card that Shirakawa has been accused by detractors of playing, he can now play the “Mayor Reed Card” and that should be enough to silence everyone! 

    Wishful thinking I am sure but I’d like to hear Mr Liccardo explain why the Reed card is invalid.

  10. Rich & Meyer Weed,
      How informative you are. Can you enlighten us on the p card payback by our sitting Mayor.
      I read in the Merc, that Rosen was to go to the board of Supervisors to get his ICE approved. How does George S. figure into that equation?
      The plot thickens.
      Thanks Rich & Meyer Weed

      The Village Black Smith

    • VBM – As you can imagine, the information on the Reed Scandal is vey hard to find. It stemmed from back and forth allegations made by Cindy chavez who was running agianst Reed for Mayor. The Merc did report on the allegations but access to those articles on the web are practically non-existent. I imagine one could purchase copies from the Merc Archives.

      There was a blog called “Mayor Watch” which many suspect was associated to the Chavez Campaign. It is still accessable and where i found pertinent Merc Info that was cut/pasted one such example is here:

      http://mayorwatch.blogspot.com/2006/09/reed-pays-for-memberships-with.html

      What Reed was accused of doing was paying for things out of his own pocket then reimbursing himself out of his Council District Office Budget with taxpayer money. After he was caught he repaid the office with his own money.