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Cut Lathrop mayor slack on family matter

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POSTED October 7, 2010 1:24 a.m.
I’m often reminded that I’m in a profession noted for its jaded view of life and the world in general. I admit I put on that armor suit on a number of occasions in the performance of my job in the interest of holding on to my belief that all human beings are basically good at heart.

But that belief is put to the test every time elections come around. That’s when you see, well, a good number of people worship more intensely than they do in church at the altar of winning-at-all-cost, and with that single-minded determination of “to heck with everyone that I trample on to get to my goal – political victory.”

I thought about that when I was listening to some of the phone calls and messages that I received Wednesday regarding the arrest of Lathrop Mayor Kristy Sayles’ husband, Thomas, on charges of “corporal injury to a child” – a felony.

The injuries, as described by police in their preliminary investigation of the incident, involved a black eye on the left side of the suspect’s 8-year-old step-son and a scratch on the other eye. The injuries were reportedly inflicted during an incident in which the youngster allegedly “was argumentative” and was “refusing to follow direction” from his step-father.

Ironically, based on the timeline pieced together in the investigation, around the time the incident was unraveling at the mayor’s home, she was reading a proclamation declaring October as Domestic  Violence Awareness Month which she then presented to a representative of the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County.

Based on the statement released by the mayor on Wednesday addressing the arrest of her husband shortly before 8 o’clock Tuesday night, she immediately called police to report the incident when she got home from the city council meeting and found out what had happened. I was at the meeting. When I noticed close toward the end that she had stepped down and Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo had the gavel, I asked the people around me where she went. Nobody knew. There was no explanation made when she left. I was probably writing down notes at the time and that’s how I missed her quiet departure.

When news about Thomas Sayles’ arrest spread around town on Wednesday like a Santa Ana wind-driven wild fire, my cell phone started ringing like crazy. The first call came in at 7:06 a.m. Actually, I received the first phone call late Tuesday evening at 10:59 telling me about the arrest of Thomas Sayles and being in jail. I checked with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s web site and obtained all the pertinent information about a Thomas Xavier Sayles being arrested and in county jail on felony child corporal injury with the bail set at $50,000 and when he was to appear in the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court. However, managing editor Dennis Wyatt decided to hold off the story since we could not get a confirmation that late in the day and at deadline time.

Yes, the charges against Thomas Sayles are appalling. But what I found equally unbelievable were some of the comments I heard, not about the suspect but about the mayor.

One comment stated in part: “We all know she (the mayor) plays victim every time she runs for any kind of seat on the council. At what point does she have to stop putting her child in danger to win a d**n council seat? You never place a child in danger to win a d**n council seat. I’m tired of her playing ‘I’m a victim’ just to win a stupid council seat.”

The mayor will probably be the first to say, as I’m sure a lot of us would do also, that she is not as innocent-looking as freshly fallen snow. But while I respect the callers’ remarks to that stream of thought – or unsolicited condemnation on the action of the mayor, or anybody else for that matter in a similar situation – since, as Voltaire stated and is paraphrased here, even if I disagree with what someone is saying, I still believe in the individual’s right to say what’s on their mind – I believe at the same time that it’s equally appalling to kick someone when he or she is down. In this particular case, the mayor simply turned into a protective-mother mode as every parent would be expected to do in a similar situation – one would hope.

Yes, there have been times when the mayor herself acted in a manner that made herself extremely vulnerable to critics, such as the way she handled the incident involving Georgianna Reichelt resulting in the city paying $21,000 in a confidential settlement, or the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in the Matt Browne wrongful termination lawsuit which also ended in a settlement. Not to mention the mud-slinging and name-calling campaign she conducted in the last mayoral elections directed mainly at then mayor candidate and former councilman Robert K. Oliver. So in the end, such comments as the one I quoted above (I choose not to mention the caller’s name because that was just one of several messages with a similar drift) were nothing less than invitations issued by the mayor because of her actions and words in the past.

As the common saying goes, what goes around comes around. Still, I hold on to the belief that human decency should always prevail. You don’t kick anybody, even an animal, when they are down. As another saying goes, you stand tallest when you stoop down to help someone who has fallen.
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