RIVERBANK -- The city's mounting political friction was on display Monday night as the City Council conducted business against a backdrop of name-calling and accusations.
Audience members traded insults with council members and city staff. One example: an audience member accused City Manager Rich Holmer of "staring her down" because she was sitting next to gadfly and former Mayor Charles Neal.
Council meetings have grown heated since Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change started a recall effort against Councilmen Dave White and Jesse James White, a grandfather and grandson. The group must collect 1,800 signatures. Members have walked door to door to collect signatures. They've started a Web site, http://riverbankcfc.org, and a Twitter feed devoted to their cause. Recall organizer Dotty Nygard said the group has about 1,400 signatures.
The Whites, or their supporters, are apparently not going quietly. Two Web sites supporting them, http://citizensofriverbank.org and http://recallsandra.org, have emerged. A flier accusing recall supporters of making "a power grab" appeared in mailboxes.
Nygard said Tuesday that her opponents want to sling mud, while she wants "to educate the public to make an informed decision."
"I don't care if they sign the recall," said Nygard. "If they can sleep at night and know this is who represents them on the City Council, then my job is done."
At Monday's meeting, Teresa Tovar told the council that her father, a Spanish-speaking Riverbank resident, was asked to sign a petition recently in support of veterans and against new taxes.
Tovar said she spoke later to people who had read the petition closely. The petition, she said, was gathering signatures on behalf of the Whites.
Dave White denied Monday that he was behind the apparently misleading petition.
Another audience member accused Neal of starting the pro-White Web sites and sending out the mailer on the Whites' behalf.
That drew a thunderous retort from Neal.
"I don't have anything to do with that Web site or any of those petitions that are circulating," shouted Neal from the podium.
Holmer challenged Neal, noting two letters written by Neal appear on one of the Web sites.
"Everybody has a copy of those (letters)!" replied Neal. "They float around town for free, my friend. For all I know, it might have been you that put (the letters on the Web site)."
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2378.