San Francisco News

SF fire chief's wages garnished for spousal support

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

San Francisco's fire chief is facing legal troubles; she reportedly owes her ex-husband tens of thousands of dollars in spousal support. But Joanne Hayes-White says she there's a reason she stopped paying.

Hayes-White says she is trying to take the high road after a published report revealed she owes her ex-husband thousands in spousal support. A judge has ordered the city to garnish $3,300 a month from her $300,000 a year paycheck.

Hayes-White and her ex-husband Sean divorced in 2009. White admits she recently stopped paying alimony after her ex choked one of their three sons. He has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of putting a child at risk.

White did not want to speak on camera Wednesday, saying "It's not in the best interest of my boys."

"This is a matter where the children aren't public officials so this should be kept out of the paper; let the family heal," Tom O'Connor, head of Firefighters Local 798, said.

Failure to pay spousal support violates family court orders, but Mayor Ed Lee says he has confidence in the chief and considers her a good leader.

"At the same time, we have to figure out what's going on with her personal life and what the courts will say about it," Lee said. "There's been no judgment call on her yet, so we'll work with her to see what the courts require she do."

This latest family discord has political insiders remembering a 2005 incident in which the chief's husband called 911, accusing her of hitting him in the head with a beer glass. He quickly recanted and no charges were filed

But supporters of embattled Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi brought up that incident when they protested outside some of his domestic violence court hearings, alleging a double standard.

District Attorney George Gascon said Wednesday the cases are very different.

"In that particular case, the husband recanted his story," he said. "In our case, we have two witnesses, we have a video tape, we have emails, we have text messages."

As for the alimony battle, Hayes-White's supporters include San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who has known the family for years.

"I love the chief, I love her kids, I know them well, I know her husband well also; the whole situation is very sad," Suhr said.

Sean White's lawyer says there is nothing that justifies her from paying court-ordered payments. He is pleased the payments will resume, but they are also going after payments from the past 14 months that could total as much as $40,000.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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