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Mayor’s husband says his civil rights were violated at Lathrop art show

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POSTED February 26, 2010 2:49 a.m.
LATHROP – Lathrop Mayor Kristy Sayles’ husband is demanding for a jury trial in the lawsuit he filed against the city and 12 other individuals.

The other defendants named in the lawsuit are Planning Commissioner Dan Mac Neilage and Ron Rhodes who is the husband of former mayor Gloryanna Rhodes, along with unnamed individuals who are simply referred to in the public document as Does 1 through 10.

In the Manteca Bulletin story that ran Saturday, Feb. 20, one of the defendants mistakenly said that the lawsuit was filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court. A copy of the document filed by Tom Sayles shows that it was filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California.

According to the official document, Sayles is seeking damages for the following 10 itemized complaints stemming from the April 24, 2009 altercation in Lathrop City Hall’s Council Chambers:

• negligence,

• intentional and/or negligent violation of right to free speech,

• assault,

• battery,

• negligent hiring, training, supervision and/or retention,

• violation of federal civil rights,

• intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress,

• violation of Brown Act,

• violation of right to assembly, and,

• violation of right to due process.

Sayles has secured the legal services of Fair Oaks, Calif., attorney Nathaniel Potratz as his representative in court. The city is represented in the lawsuit by Cornelius Callahan, an attorney with the Borton and Petrini Law Office in Modesto which is being retained by the Central San Joaquin Valley Risk Management Authority insurance pool of which Lathrop is a part.

The complaint also explains that Sayles filed a claim against the city on Aug. 26, 2009 for the same incident at City Hall which was received and rejected by the City Council on Oct. 6, 2009. The August complaint also named Mac Neilage and Rhodes.

Contends art show gathering was official meeting
Sayles also alleges in his lawsuit that Does 1 through 10 as defendants “were acting together in concert, entering into agreements with each other, and working as the principal, agent, employee, alter ego, co-conspirator, and/or representative of the other remaining defendants and that each defendant was aware of the acts of the others and consented to, ratified and/or acquiesced in such acts.”

The lawsuit then explains Sayles’ allegations that on or about April 24, 2009, Sayles was “assaulted and battered in the council chambers at City Hall during the course of an official meeting,” and that the assault and battery were committed by Mac Neilage and “City of Lathrop volunteer Ron Rhodes.”

The allegations add that Sayles “was also violently intimidated, shut down and prevented from exercising his First Amendment rights… at said meeting,” and that he “suffered personal injury to his back” and “also suffered severe emotional and mental distress from the incident.”

The lawsuit also explains that Sayles was the victim of “intentional and/or negligent violation of right to free speech” because while he “was attempting to assemble and speak at said meeting, (the) defendants engaged in a course of conduct of berating, cursing, and menacing (Sayles) and ultimately assaulting and battering him, in a concerted effort to prevent (him) from speaking at said meeting.”

The meeting indicated in the lawsuit was the first day of accepting entries to the annual Mayor’s Purchase Award Show and Sale being held in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The story about the altercation has appeared in the Manteca Bulletin including the filing of Sayles’ complaint in the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office which was rejected by the court. The altercation happened when Mac Neilage confronted Sayles, who was appointed by his wife to the arts committee, over his involvement with the group. When Rhodes saw Sayles staring at Mac Neilage’s chest area, he thought Sayles was about to “head-butt” Mac Neilage who just had an open-hear surgery. Concern for Mac Neilage made Rhodes react to, as he put it, “save a friend” from harm. Rhodes pushed Sayles away from Mac Neilage and, in the process, Sayles was pushed against the wall and then fell to the ground.

When contacted on the phone to comment on the Feb. 20 story about her husband’s lawsuit, the mayor simply said, “I’m working and I can’t talk right now.” Asked what would be the best time to reach her, she said, “anytime after six.” However, when the follow-up phone call was made on her cell phone, nobody answered. A phone call to Tom Sayles on the couple’s home phone also was unsuccessful. The phone kept on ringing and there was no recorded message asking for the caller to leave a message.

The mayor also did not offer any comment to criticisms made during Monday night’s council meeting about her husband’s lawsuit. One resident, Dan Doyle, said the lawsuit is a “huge conflict of interest” for the mayor and because of that conflict, she “should excuse herself and leave office.”
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