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.