Tensions within the Sweetwater Union High School District continue to escalate.
The April 16 board meeting had an overflow audience of unhappy people, but an odd conflict between boardmember John McCann and recall activist Stewart Payne took place in the parking lot after the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, outside, the committee to recall Sweetwater boardmembers McCann, Jim Cartmill, and Arlie Ricasa began their signature drive. In the wake of the countless Sweetwater stories of disrepute, the group is seeking to recall the three boardmembers who are not up for reelection November.
After the meeting, McCann went out to the parking lot and gave an interview to KUSI. During the interview, McCann called his detractors disgruntled employees and specifically referred to Payne as someone who was just seeking work in the district. (Besides being one of the organizers of the recall petition, Payne is one of the people who went to the district attorney to begin the investigation of malfeasance in the district.)
After the KUSI interview, McCann turned and advanced toward the group he had criticized, and with an outstretched hand, said, “I just want to shake your hand.” Many in the group retreated, and Payne said, “I don’t want to shake your hand. What are you going to do? Have them shoot me?” Payne gestured to the armed security guards who had followed McCann to the parking lot. (Security has been hired to police the board meetings.)
On April 17, the U-T reported, “Police responded at 10:26 p.m. to a call of threats being made in the parking lot of the district’s administration center, said Chula Vista police Capt. Gary Wedge. No arrests were made, he said.
“Sweetwater Trustee John McCann said he called police after he was threatened by a member of the community activist group Occupy Sweetwater, which is organizing the recall. McCann said he had just finished a TV news interview and was trying to shake hands with some Occupy members standing nearby, including Stewart Payne. McCann said Payne stepped toward him with clenched fists.
“ ‘I said, “I’m just trying to shake your hand,” and he basically said he was going to knock me out,’ McCann said. ‘He was raising his arm and then a security guard stepped in between me and Mr. Payne and he was unable to hit me.’ ”
In an April 17 interview, private security officer Sanchez, from JDS Exclusive Security Services, stated that he did not call the police because “at no time did I feel it was necessary.”
Sanchez said his intervention between Payne and McCann consisted of “coming between their conversation.”
McCann allegedly advanced toward other critics, creating an emotional exchange with Maty Adato, who challenged McCann about planting harmful stories about her in the U-T.
This is not the first parking-lot incident for McCann. Chula Vista councilmember Rudy Ramirez, also in an April 17 interview, said he had spoken to a U-T reporter last year on Veterans Day about an incident in the Chula Vista library parking lot. Ramirez said he felt threatened when McCann drove his car straight at him before swerving away abruptly.