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Embattled San Francisco sheriff has contentious first day back

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Embattled San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi had a contentious first day back on the job on Wednesday, as the city's mayor continued to rebuke the lawman over a domestic violence conviction that nearly cost the sheriff his badge.

But a prominent supporter of Mirkarimi, who found himself fighting for his political life after a New Year's Eve quarrel with his wife turned physical, said he expects the sheriff and his opponents in local government to eventually smooth over their differences.

The city's Board of Supervisors, tasked with deciding if Mirkarimi could return to his job, voted 7-4 on Tuesday in favor of removal but the count was two votes shy of the number required by city rules to oust him.

Mayor Ed Lee had suspended Mirkarimi without pay in March and initiated the misconduct proceedings against him in a saga that rocked San Francisco's political establishment.

"The facts clearly demonstrate that Ross Mirkarimi's actions and his domestic violence-related conviction falls below the ethical conduct we expect of our elected sheriff and constitutes official misconduct," Lee said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The board's decision returns a convicted domestic batterer to lead the sheriff's office, and I am concerned about our city's nationally recognized domestic-violence programs," Lee said.

The case against Mirkarimi stemmed from a squabble with his wife, Venezuelan television actress Eliana Lopez, that the couple carried on in front of their young son, Theo, over her plans to take the boy to her home country.

In a cell phone video shot by a neighbor the next day, Lopez tearfully claimed her husband had grabbed her arm with such force that he left it black and blue. She said it was the second time he had bruised her.

Lopez later refused to testify against her husband in the ensuing domestic abuse case and sought to bar the video from being introduced as evidence.

In a deal with prosecutors, Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to a single charge of false imprisonment.

Mirkarimi said on local radio station KQED on Wednesday he expected to restart his work at the Sheriff's Department by getting a briefing from Vicki Hennessy, whom Lee had pulled out of retirement in March to replace Mirkarimi as acting sheriff.

David Waggoner, Mirkarimi's attorney, said the city had agreed to pay the sheriff back pay for the time he was suspended. Mirkarimi could not be reached for comment.

Former Mayor Art Agnos, Mirkarimi's friend and mentor, predicted the sheriff and other city officials would quickly set aside their differences. "Politicians make up very quickly," Agnos told Reuters. "Ross has always had a great relationship with domestic-violence advocates."

Suzy Loftus, a San Francisco police commissioner and former prosecutor, remained skeptical: "Let's see if (Mirkarimi) continues to minimize his conduct and portray himself as a victim or steps up and really tries to rehabilitate himself."

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)

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