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Politics get physical at City Hall

Art triggers altercation between husbands of mayor & ex-mayor in Lathrop

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POSTED April 28, 2009 2:17 a.m.
ROSE ALBANO RISSO
City editor of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
LATHROP - The husband of the current mayor, the husband of a former mayor, and a city Planning Commissioner have been ordered to appear in Manteca Superior Court following a verbal and physical altercation that occurred inside the Council Chambers at Lathrop City Hall on Friday.
Ordered to appear in court May 22 on infraction citations by Lathrop Police are Tom Sayles, husband of Mayor Kristy Sayles; Ron Rhodes, husband of former mayor Gloryanna Rhodes; and, city Planning Commissioner Dan Mac Neilage.
The mayor was not present when the incident happened on Friday when entries to the annual Mayor's Art Purchase Award Show and Sale were being accepted in the council chambers. Sayles called police after he was pushed by Ron Rhodes while Sayles was in a verbal altercation with Mac Neilage. Sayles reportedly hit the wall then slid down the floor after he was pushed by Rhodes.
Here's what happened according to information gathered from Rhodes and Mac Neilage on Monday.
Mac Neilage said he went to City Hall Friday morning with the intent of talking to Sayles. The Planning Commissioner said he had heard that Sayles has "upset" the members of the art committee, which is in charge of the annual art show and sale, at the group's recent meetings to the point that he made Joyce Gatto cry. Gatto, along with a small group of community volunteers, started this popular annual event 16 years ago.
Upon arriving at City Hall, Mac Neilage said he went up to Sayles, and "I said, you're not wanted here, you're not needed here. He said, 'my wife, the mayor, assigned me to this committee to make sure this is run properly for the first time.' That's how I remember him saying that."
Mac Neilage said Sayles responded by trying to "egg me on" and ended up getting up "nose to nose" during their verbal exchange with Sayles staring at the commissioner's chest area.
Seeing what was happening, Rhodes said, "I saw Tom (Sayles) move toward Dan like he was going to head-butt him so I jumped in to push him out of the way. I just pushed his hand and he fell back."
Rhodes said what he did was just "a knee-jerk reaction to help my friend." He said he was concerned for Mac Neilage being hit in the chest area because he just had an open-heart surgery late last year and is still under medication for his heart problems.
After Sayles got up, he told Mac Neilage and Rhodes that he was going to call his wife and the police, according to witnesses. Five police officers responded and came to City Hall. The three men were given infraction citations and were ordered to report to the Manteca Superior Court. Sayles' telephone at home kept on ringing and did not have a recording machine on that directed the caller to leave a message when this reporter dialed his home phone number to get his side of the story.  The mayor is in Washington, D.C., where she is attending the One Voice lobbying trip with City Manager Cary Keaten. She is not expected to be back until Friday.
 Tom Sayles is reportedly with his wife on this trip, but that could not confirmed as of press time. Spouses of those going to this trip are allowed but they have to pay their own expenses.
Joyce Gatto, who is a member of the art committee, was in the Council Chambers when the incident occurred. However, she declined to make any comment. Gatto has been a perennial volunteer at the annual art show and sale helping hang the paintings and other entries. Rhodes was among the volunteers who showed up to help.
Tom Sayles was reportedly appointed in November after the elections by his wife to the art committee.
 To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail ralbanorisso@mantecabulletin.com or call (209) 249-3536.
 
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