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Residents fear yet another costly Lathrop city lawsuit
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LATHROP – Dan Doyle said he did not want Lathrop to spend another half a million dollars to settle a lawsuit.

Cedric Starling said that kind of money could be better used for school programs.

Rosalinda Valencia called the lawsuit “disgraceful.”

The three who addressed the Lathrop City Council Monday night were referring to the lawsuit filed last week by Mayor Kristy Sayles’ husband, Tom. His complaint stems from the physical altercation he had in the Council Chambers at City Hall with Planning Commissioner Dan Mac Neilage and Ron Rhodes, the husband of former mayor Gloryanna Rhodes, during the first day of accepting entries to the annual Mayor’s Art Purchase Award Show and Sale last year in March.

Doyle went as far as to suggest that the mayor “should excuse herself or leave office” because, as he put it, “this is a big conflict of interest for the mayor.”

He was also concerned about how much this lawsuit could cost the already cash-strapped city.
“This could turn out to be another Matt Browne issue, which I hope not,” Doyle added.

He was referring to the wrongful termination complaint filed by the former chief building official which resulted in a $480,000 settlement, not including attorneys’ fees and other related expenses incurred by the city, awarded to Browne near the end of last year. After two-and-half years of legal wrangling and hearing delays, Browne’s fight finally concluded late last year with the longtime city employee getting his job back with full salary and benefit-package restitution. The settlement also had the city paying for his attorney’s fees.

“The city always says we don’t have any money, so (the lawsuit) doesn’t make any sense to me,” Starling commented.

Instead of having taxpayers’ money being spent on such lawsuits, “we could be putting the money into school funds,” he said.

Valencia suggested that the mayor “should pick up the attorneys’ fees” incurred by the city in the lawsuit.

She also insinuated that the mayor could be part of the lawsuit filed by her husband.

The papers filed only show Tom Sayles’ name, “but we all know the truth. I think it’s bogus,” Valencia said speaking before the council at Monday night’s regular meeting.

She again used the same phrase when commenting on new assessments proposed for Woodfield Park’s maintenance which the council approved that evening.

“We won’t be assessed if people don’t file bogus lawsuits,” Valencia said.

Still offering another criticism on Tom Sayles’ lawsuit against the city in which he reportedly complained about not being able to find employment as a result of what happened in the Council Chambers last year, Valencia said, “People are saying they can’t find jobs. McDonald’s is hiring right now.”

The mayor remained tight-lipped throughout the criticisms about her husband’s lawsuit.

Representing the city in Tom Sayles’ lawsuit is Cornelius Callahan, an attorney with the Borton and Petrini Law office in Modesto which is being retained by the joint powers insurance pool of which the city of Lathrop is a part. Sayles’ legal counsel is Nathaniel Potratz of Fair Oaks, Calif.
Callahan directed questions about the charges in the lawsuit to Tom Sayles’ attorney. Potratz did not return phone calls on Friday seeking comments.

However, Bulletin sources said that in his lawsuit, Tom Sayles is seeking damages for “mental anguish” and for his inability to obtain employment as a result of the incident last year at City Hall. It all started when Mac Neilage confronted Tom Sayles, who was appointed by his mayor wife to the arts committee, over his involvement with the group. During their face-to-face verbal confrontation, Rhodes saw Sayles staring at the chest area of Mac Neilage as though he was about to “head-butt” Mac Neilage who just had an open-heart surgery. Concerned about what such a physical force could do to Mac Neilage, Rhodes said he responded to a knee-jerk reaction and rushed to push Sayles away from Mac Neilage. In the process, Sayles was pushed against the wall before falling to the ground. Sayles then called his wife and the police to report the incident.