Atherton councilwoman cites harassment | January 25, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - January 25, 2012

Atherton councilwoman cites harassment

by Renee Batti

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.


Posted by Bugged , a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

Did the search for evesdropping "bugs" turn up anything? Looks like no or else that would have been mentioned in the story.

Atherton PD denies circling the McKeithen's. Do they have the cars and staff to circle a neighborhood or house?

The McKeithens live by MA High School, were those students wearing black with bookbags?

What is documented is that a garden hose was cut and Lewis said something during the December meeting. Who did Lewis speak to during the meeting, she sits between Mayor Widmar and Jim Dobbie?

Posted by Term Limits, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:12 am

McKeithen ran on term limits. Her third term expires this year.

Posted by Tape, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm

At the meeting, McKeithen also cited the abuse was hurting the livelyhood of her husband and family. She did not say how.

Posted by Tim Wulff, a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm

What I see in these comments is not a whit of compassion or respect for people who are suffering at the hands of others.

And this after a great deal of personal sacrifice by those who are reviled given in service of the interests of the historical property owners of the town.

The nature of the character of the powers who are new residents is and has been quite clear - they deal with disagreement and opposition to their agenda not with civility and circumspection, but an unrestrained and savage attack as though only their interests and views have the right to stand and everything else is to be torn apart that might oppose their will.

Meanwhile, the truly powerful who reside here stand back and allow this act to continue, apparently uninterested in restoring an environment that could again bring an attitude of respect towards the government of this town from those who view from without.

Posted by Cite , a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jan 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Cite means to mention in support, proof, or confirmation.

It seems more documentation could be obtained to support the statements.

"She (McKeithen) 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,"

How long are the neighbors saying the police parked in front of her house?

The Atherton PD should be able to determine which shift of 3 or 4 officers who was working that day and allow McKeithen to question them. The neighbors could be given photos of the officers to identify which officer it was.

If the police visited her house there should be a call report, just as there were on July 22 and August 22.

Posted by 55 year year Atherton resident, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

Perhaps all her negative energy, back stabbing etc. to projects and stances she does not support has gotten to her mentally, time to retire