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Sausalito City Council Hand Slap Prompts Assault Charges

SAUSALITO (CBS 5) - A Sausalito councilwoman has accused a male colleague of assault after the man slapped her hand during a contentious council meeting, an incident caught on video.

Meanwhile another city councilwoman said the incident is part of a pattern of belittling treatment of women on the council by their male colleagues.

Councilmember Carolyn Ford said she was trying to hear the public works director's report on dredging at the Sausalito city council's last meeting two weeks ago, but two colleagues were talking.

She appears on the video raising her hand while telling Vice Mayor Mike Kelly, sitting next to her, to shush. Kelly responded by slapping the top of Ford's hand, saying, "Don't shush me."

"Don't hit me," responded Ford.

"Don't put your hand on my side of the table," countered Kelly.

Ten days later, Ford filed assault charges against Kelly.

"This has crosssed over a personal boundary of mine," said Ford. "I don't think any person should hit another person."

Ford said despite team building workshops, the three men on the council – Kelly, Mayor Herb Weiner, and Councilmember Jonathan Leone - have been more than rude to their female colleagues and the incident follows a pattern of heckling and poor treatment.

Fellow councilmember Linda Pfeiffer agreed with Ford. "There's been a history of verbal abuse - heckling, belittlement - from the start. She is courageous to take a stand and speak out," said Pfeiffer

Police say their investigation will determine whether to give the case to the district attorney.

The DA's office said if it prosecutes the matter as a misdemeanor battery case, conviction would carry a maximum six months in jail or maximum $1,000 fine.

But Ford says she'd consider dropping the charges. "An apology would be very nice. I would have to be assured that this kind of abuse would stop."

Mayor Weiner declined to talk about the matter saying it was under investigation. Vice Mayor Kelly did not return phone calls or email.

Tuesday night's council meeting was to be the first since the hand slapping incident.

Ford has asked to have her seat moved. She will be sitting in the second seat, between Pfeifer and Mayor Weiner.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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