8. Who is out to get whom?

Many people have been puzzled and disturbed by the bizarre behavior demonstrated by Ms. McKeithen at the January council meeting, where she used her time on the dias to issue vague accusations and insinuations that she was under attack by others.  The Almanac report did not do justice to the incoherence of her mutterings at the council meeting, although Rene Batti called it a “stunning message.”  Rather Ms. Batti opted to change what most everyone there experienced as “mad ramblings” and followed up with an interview to get more clarity from Ms. McKeithen on her incoherent statements, at which point McKeithen accused Council member Lewis by name.  Our inquiries about this incident found several hypotheses for this behavior.

First theory: McKeithen really loves pointing her finger at others, especially to accuse them of things that she knows she is guilty of herself and was totally primed to accuse someone of something but wasn’t able to lay her hands on anything remotely plausible, so she just came out with her strange and over-blown accusations of whatever was on her own mind (or perhaps that she herself had been doing).  This seems to be largely therapeutic for her.

Another theory that was articulated:  McKeithen is increasingly expressing the conviction that people are out to get her.  This kind of paranoia is not an uncommon syndrome among elderly people.  (Furthermore, given how many people she has attacked and sent packing for one reason or another, there is no saying how far off her belief may be!)

The third speculation:  At the beginning of that meeting, Widmer was selected as mayor, having been Vice Mayor.  He then had to announce his selection for his Vice Mayor.  It was clear as he articulated his dilemma, that he saw his choices as being between “effectiveness” and “fairness.”  So let’s review:  Prior to Widmer, Dobbie and been Mayor, prior to him, McKeithen had been Mayor, prior to that it was Marsala and Carlson.  That left only Elizabeth Lewis, who had been on the council for three years and had never been mayor.  The prior year, she should have been selected as Vice Mayor but, in a rather odd and frankly troubling set of votes (starting with Widmer launching an “abstain” attack on Lewis, thereby blocking from the nomination of Lewis as offered by Jerry Carlson) her nomination failed because of Widmer.  Then, as if planned, Widmer himself (a newbie councilmember of a mere 5 minutes old) was quickly nominated in her place as Vice Mayor by McKeithen and Dobbie, and Widmer supported that vote. Well, perhaps Kathy thought that by showing her friend Widmer so much favoritism and nominating him to be Vice Mayor ahead of Lewis (a three-year veteran of the council whose turn it was was), that Widmer would reciprocate to throw his support to her, i.e. the “effective” choice.  As it turned out, Widmer chose Lewis and did the fair thing, and eschewed McKeithen (or whoever McKeithen had been pressuring him to select). At any rate, his choice drove McKeithen to distraction and she was so full of rage at that moment that she just had to vent by finding some way to attack Council member Lewis and everyone else who she saw as being out to get her, even with no basis in reality.

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24. What motivates Kathy McKeithen to cast aspersions towards the Atherton Police?

It seems that Kathy McKeithen will jump on any opportunity to condemn and point her finger at the Atherton Police.  While virtually every other Atherton resident I ever speak to is absolutely ecstatic about the job the Atherton police do, McKeithen has been known to froth at the mouth anytime she gets a chance to accuse the police of something.  I would love to know what underlies this set of hostilities, which seems to go way back.

Extremely concerning is how, motivated by her publicly-known hostilities towards the police, she has twice worked in opposition to fellow council members to defeat the Town’s Parcel Tax (which is designed to primarily fund Police costs, I think), even though its defeat cripple town finances, since a portion funds other town needs.  How is trying to defeat the Parcel Tax in the best interests of residents?  Aren’t there other, far more effective ways to address organizational concerns with the police, if that is what her concerns are?

I find it highly unprofessional for one of the town’s most senior council members to level the kinds of vague accusations that Kathy utters fairly often in public—but in the case of the police, towards a highly professional organization that not only works full time but also puts their lives on the line to protect and defend us.  Nevertheless, it appears from the range and breadth of her accusations, no person, council colleague, volunteer committee or respected profession is immune from finger-pointing by McKeithen.  With behavior like this, my analysis suggests that either she just completely lacks the kind of effective people management skills that are needed to address her “fears” in an appropriately professional way (such as meeting with the Police Chief) or her reasons for issuing utterings like this are not actually to get to the bottom of what is happening—but possibly just to spread fear, doubt or hurt reputations.  It is really difficult to understand what the public benefit could be of a council member talking like this at a council meeting but here, according to Almanac reporter, Rene Batti in this linked Almanac article, are McKeithen’s latest vague, unsubstantiated insinuations involving the police:

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 . . .” Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen declared during the Jan. 18 council meeting.

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 her neighborhood to experience the 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 were on July 22, a Friday, and Aug. 22, a Monday, according to Lt. Joe Wade. But 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 also 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.”