LATHROP - Mayor Kristy Sayles, 35, has asked the San Joaquin County grand jury to investigate what many, including her opponents, consider the dirtiest political campaign since the city was incorporated in 1989.
Sayles and her primary challengers for mayor all have denounced the tactics, which largely involve a Web site devoted to attacking Sayles and divulging personal matters from her past. The charges have delved into her marital status and decade-old legal issues.
Sayles called it "evil" and "vicious."
Challenger Robert Oliver, a current council member, said it was "scurrilous" and said he would have it shut down if he could. Mayoral candidate John Rock called it "mean-spirited" and said its viciousness reminds him of domestic battles.
Yet Oliver and Rock say to some extent Sayles has brought the problems on herself.
In some respects, Sayles agrees.
The attacks on Sayles began even before she officially filed her re-election papers in August.
Sayles said she received an e-mail from someone claiming to be her friend telling her what would happen if she ran for a second term. She said the threats are coming true.
The majority of the attacks have come via the Web site kristysayles.com. It is registered to a licensed private investigator in Livermore, Jeremy D. Maurer. The site went live in July.
Sayles believes she knows who is funding the site, although she refused name anyone in particular. She has said she believes large developers in Lathrop are the only ones with the finances to do so.
Although Maurer did not return calls seeking comment, he has maintained on the Web site that he was not hired to create the site but sees it as a way to gain a name for himself as an "opposition researcher" for future campaigns.
He said he chose Sayles after hearing from friends in Lathrop and Manteca about what he termed scandalous activities involving the mayor.
Maurer has focused on digging up records mostly tied to Sayles' past financial problems and her husband's business. The viciousness often comes in the form of comments posted by people visiting the site.
Rock, who has posted there as well, said he sees anger and hate in some of the Web postings. He also believes they involve only a handful of people using multiple aliases.
At the same time, Rock sees some positives. "People are getting involved," he said, and the site is getting information out about the candidate.
Sayles, a fifth-generation Lathrop resident, has six children. Steve McKee, a popular former Lathrop mayor, is her uncle.
In May, she was cleared by the county grand jury of accusations that she had illegally received financial contributions from developers and of "unspecified unethical actions since her election."
Sayles also has been attacked personally through a more traditional route. A recent mailer to Lathrop's 4,400 registered voters also focused on Sayles' past. A group calling itself the California Taxpayer Protection Committee included photos of court papers that also are on the Web site.
The committee lists an Elverta address, and its Web site describes the group as "a loose-knit organization of individual volunteers and affiliated groups who believe that government spending is out of control, taxes are too high and new borrowing is not the answer."
The California Republican Party is listed as one of the organization's members. Although the mayor's race is nonpartisan, Sayles, Oliver and Rock all are Republicans.
Oliver believes some of the campaign nastiness is coming from the mayor, such as a Sayles mailer that attacked "local developers" as those who "would use the Lathrop General Fund as their personal ATM machine."
The mailer alleges those developers hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on her and recruited a candidate to run against her. The challenging candidate has not been identified.
Contact reporter Harley Becker at (209) 239-3354 or firstname.lastname@example.org.