SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – A judge has declared San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White a deadbeat divorcee and ordered the city to start garnisheeing $3,300 a month from her paycheck for spousal support to her ex-husband.
Hayes-White says she stopped paying support about 14 months ago, after an incident in which her ex-hubby, Robert “Sean” White, grabbed and choked one of their sons while in a booze-fueled rage.
In December, he pleaded no contest in San Mateo County Superior Court to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment and cruelty. He is serving his sentence on a county sheriff’s work detail and living in a rehab house.
Last week, White went to San Francisco Superior Court demanding that the chief resume the spousal support she was ordered to pay when the couple divorced in 2009.
On Friday, Judge Ron Albers signed an order to start deducting the payments from her $302,000 annual salary, though it does not appear to cover the more than $40,000 in backlogged payments.
White’s attorney, Bradley Kass, did not return calls for comment.
The support scuffle is the latest twist in the couple’s family drama.
In 2005, White – a first cousin of the late Dan White – called 911 and accused his wife of hitting him on the head twice with a pint glass in their kitchen in San Francisco. Hayes-White denied the accusations, and he recanted.
(No charges were ever filed – something supporters of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi have pointed to in arguing that prosecutors overreached in charging him for what they see as a similar set of circumstances.)
After a long separation, the couple divorced in 2009, but shared custody of their three children until last year, when Hayes-White obtained a restraining order prohibiting him from contacting her or the two children who were still minors.
In an interview, Hayes-White said she had stopped making the spousal payments because of the growing costs she has incurred raising their children.
“This is not about being vindictive,” she said. “Everything just went on pause” after last year’s attack on the couple’s son.
The chief also says White has not fully lived up to his end of their divorce settlement, including paying for half of the family health care costs and showing he has made a “good-faith effort” to find work.
“I have been shouldering the responsibility for the safety, health and well-being of my kids,” Hayes-White said. “I love being chief, but my biggest and best job is being a mom.”