Atherton councilwoman cites harassment
The difficult job of serving on the Atherton City Council for the past 11 years has been made nearly intolerable by incidents including vandalism at her home, an unexplained incident of police cars driving around her property, and "abuse by a fellow council member," Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen declared during the Jan. 18 council meeting.
The method in which Ms. McKeithen delivered her stunning message was unusual: She made her statement from the City Council dais during oral communications, although she offered to step down and speak from the podium.
Although she didn't single out any of her council colleagues by name during her statement, she told the Almanac in an interview that she was referring to Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis when speaking of abuse and insults directed her way.
Ms. Lewis could not be reached for comment before press time.
"I'm a favorite stalking horse for her," Ms. McKeithen said in the interview. "We should be able to act like civil human beings. That's what the town's people want us to do, and that's not what we're doing."
Ms. McKeithen said the abusive behavior was particularly bad during the council's Dec. 21 meeting, "and I've had enough." The behavior has included quietly uttered snide comments, threats, untruthful remarks, demeaning references, and general "cattiness and nastiness ... and backbiting," she said.
She wanted to make her statement at the beginning of the meeting rather than wait until the "council reports" agenda item near the end "to make it an embarrassment if it's done again," she said.
During her public statement she called on Mayor Bill Widmer to use his authority to maintain civility among council members. "I'm asking the new mayor to enforce our rules of conduct," she told the Almanac. "He's new, and I'm ticked."
Mayor Widmer could not be reached for comment before press time.
Regarding references she made during her statement to problems she's encountered outside the council chambers, Ms. McKeithen told the Almanac that "odd things are happening."
One example: Multiple incidents of vandalism to her irrigation system. The system's hoses were "cut up into 12 or 15 pieces," and hers is the only residence in the neighborhood to experience such vandalism, she said.
Although she said she suspected the incidents were occurring while she was away at Wednesday council meetings, police department records show that the two occasions that officers were called out happened on July 22, a Friday, and Aug. 22, a Monday, according to Lt. Joe Wade. The reports say that it was unknown when the vandalism occurred.
Lt. Wade said that on the second call to the McKeithen home, officers were told that there had been a third incident as well.
Officers had offered to begin patrol checks around the house after the first call, but the offer was declined. In August, the patrol checks were requested, he said.
There are no suspects or leads in the case, Lt. Wade said.
Ms. McKeithen said her concern over police cars "on at least one occasion totally circling my house" stemmed from an incident reported by a family member after she returned home. When she called the police department and was told officers hadn't been at her house, she called other jurisdictions and was told none of their officers had been in the area.
She questioned whether the incident had actually occurred until neighbors asked her what the police were doing at the house that day, she said. But "no one in the police (department) will own up to that happening," she added.
Another incident involved "two people dressed in black in my backyard, with knapsacks," she said. Suspicions of being targeted led to her hiring a professional to check for eavesdropping "bugs" in her house, she said.
When asked who she thought might be vandalizing and trespassing at her home, she said, "I have no idea."
Interim Police Chief Ed Flint could not be reached for comment for this report.