John McCann, interviewing with KUSI prior to his attempt at shaking hands with his detractors, April 16
  • John McCann, interviewing with KUSI prior to his attempt at shaking hands with his detractors, April 16
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For weeks, activist Stewart Payne has had headlines written that pertain to him: “Violent Threats By Occupy Sweetwater Result in Restraining Order” (San Diego Rostra), “Keep Payne Away” (The Star News), and “Court Protects Sweetwater Board Member” (U-T San Diego).

All of this because, on the night of April 16, before a meeting of the Sweetwater Union High School District, Payne and the group Occupy Sweetwater initiated a recall petition against boardmember John McCann and two other trustees.

After the meeting, words were exchanged in the parking lot, and McCann called the police to report Payne had physically threatened him. (Payne had gone home before McCann made the call to police.)

McCann subsequently received a temporary restraining order against Payne and sought a permanent one. On May 9, judge Ana Espana determined that Payne had not threatened McCann and denied the injunction.

Aside from why certain media outlets seemed to mischaracterize Payne's role in the incident, other questions remain. Should the temporary restraining order ever have been issued? And why were inconsistencies in the police report — which became crucial during the hearing — overlooked?

Here are the details of what happened: After the April 16 board meeting, McCann gave an interview with KUSI. During the interview, McCann criticized the people who went to the San Diego district attorney — Payne among them — alleging corruption in the Sweetwater district. McCann characterized the activists as “disgruntled employees” and during the interview said Payne was someone who had been looking for work in the school system.

After the interview, according to the police incident report, “McCann made his way over to Stewart Payne and extended his hand to Payne. McCann stated he wanted to use this as a gesture that there were no hard feelings and as a way to hopefully resolve the tension between the two.”

In a May 9 interview, Payne reasoned with McCann's statement and actions, saying, “Why would you throw me under the bus on camera and then try to come shake my hand? It doesn’t make sense.” Payne said the hearing that resulted in the judgment in his favor centered on inconsistencies in the police report and a follow-up investigation report.

A follow-up investigation, during which Chula Vista police detective Michael Varga interviewed McCann, states, “Payne then raised his balled and clenched fist in preparation to strike McCann.”

However, Varga’s follow-up report with security guard Jorge Sanchez states, “I asked Sanchez about Payne’s physical posture…. Sanchez stated that Payne had one hand extended, and one finger of that hand extended, into McCann’s face…. I asked Sanchez if Payne’s hands were balled into a fist, or if Payne was in any type of fighting stance. Sanchez did not see Payne’s hands balled into a fist and did not recall seeing Payne in any type of fighting stance.”

Jimmy Delgado, an employee of the San Ysidro Elementary School District, provided a witness statement for McCann. According to Delgado, Payne “...aggressively pointed his finger in McCann’s face.” Delgado's description of Payne's gestures agree with Payne’s formal response.

Payne says he backed away from McCann’s advances that night: “I had retreated so far that I could feel other people on my heels…. At this point I became concerned that Mr. McCann was becoming irrational and intending to do me harm. It is at this point that I extended my hand pointing my finger to establish my personal boundary and told him not to come closer or I would protect myself.”

Payne, who defended himself during the May 9 proceedings, said, “Have you ever seen anyone who was going to hit someone with their finger?”

McCann was represented by an attorney at the hearing. According to a May 10 U-T report, “Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand approved the legal expense. He said the affair may cost the school district around $2,400 in attorney’s fees for McCann.”

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Visduh May 10, 2012 @ 8:15 p.m.

So Brandara is spending more public dollars on this irrational and spectacular rot? He should be ashamed and quit now. But some people are shameless and never quit. Sheesh, is someone in law enforcement going to take a really good luck at this wretched excuse of a school district? Where is the attorney general in all this?


anniej May 10, 2012 @ 8:52 p.m.

Visduh: thank goodness that Payne has a Masters in Criminal Justice, or is it a PhD ? but in any event i do believe that mccann, brand, and the majority of other board members severely underestimated the concerned citizen by the name of Mr. Stuart Payne.

the attempted real damage to Mr. Payne, that was perpetrated by those involved at the district is indeed a reflection of their true vindictive nature.

if we analyze the latest two incidents they are most concerning for a variety of reasons - one of them being the financial cost. we hire a security firm that shows up toting guns they do not have permits for - and how much did this cost we taxpayers? now we see john mccann hiring an attorney to represent him for a restraining order that was found to be unsubstantiated - and again i ask how much did this cost we taxpayers in total?

brand should be held accountable for both fiascos as they fall under his jurisdiction. has the board acknowledged the truth about the security firm and the lack of licensing? these are real guns, with real bullets, on the hips of security guards that have NO authorization to carry them. WHY????????????? a school district board room, with your children in attendance - we need leadership that will make much better decisions. mccann, brand, and definitely quinones are not those leaders.

just my opinion

have they learned? probably not - the antagonists will be proceeding with caution - i am hearing neither brand nor mccann like to loose. any and all incidents of retribution, intimidation, or subliminal scare tactics, no matter how small will be documented and reported. past incidents have laid the ground work for the potential here, no group should be targeted for speaking out in favor of what is right. hopefully the issues will be left in the board room, as they should be.

just my opinion


Jmbrickley May 10, 2012 @ 9:54 p.m.

For most people, the events surrounding Sweetwater Union HSD are abstract concepts. Board members who may have committed crimes while in office, contractors who may have gamed the system, administrators who may have bent the rules to their favor. However, there are many for whom these behaviors violate the very core of their beliefs. It is the concept of "fair play," "the Golden Rule," and "Do unto others...," that form some of the most basic of values that a majority of people hold dear. For most people, it is an alien thought that any of our elected officials would use their elected positions as a means for personal  gain, a "me first" attitude, or a stepping stone to higher political office.
Yet, it is this self-serving attitude that is exactly what is to be found in the leadership of Sweetwater Union High School District. This attitude pervades the Board of Trustees, the senior administration, and the favored few who find themselves as one of the "in people." Too many insiders currying  favor with whomever is in charge,  board members looking to senior administration to promote themselves in the public's eye. Their concern is more of "What can you do for me," than "What can I do for the school district?" These people personify everything that is wrong with Sweetwater Union High School District. These  people's  time should be over. Yet, they  continue to hold positions that have major influence, not only on the well-being of our community's students, but also on the financial solvency of the District as a whole.
There is no real argument as to whether or not these people should be replaced with more responsible citizens. The questions are, and shall remain "How long do we tolerate this behavior until each and every one of us takes personal responsibility to bring about change?" " How long shall we wait until we've seen enough, heard enough, or had enough of what has become an almost daily ritual of scandal, hubris, and denial before we are willing to take action?"
There has never been a more critical moment than now for each and every one of us to stand up and speak as one voice that enough is enough, we have had all we will tolerate, and it is time for the current leadership of the Sweetwater Union High School District to leave, resign, or quit.
Please join me in voicing this sentiment to the current Board of Trustees at the next meeting of the Sweetwater Union HSD. In unity there is strength.
John M. Brickley, SUHSD, Retired

SweetwaterRecall2012 May 11, 2012 @ 5:37 a.m.

Sign the petitions to recall Mr. McCann and his fellow board members Ricasa and Cartmill. There is real work to be done in the Sweetwater district. This event has been an embarrassing attempt by McCann to divert public attention from the real issues. Contact Occupy Sweetwater through their Facebook page at, e-mail at [email protected], or call (619) 422-1617.


savesweetwater May 11, 2012 @ 7:43 a.m.

I am glad the truth is coming out and McCann was not granted a permanent restraining order by the judge. McCann's continued bizarre behavior (filming speakers from the dias? having the republican party send out a robocall about McCann's decision on a board action that hadn't been voted on yet? running away from a recall petition? and let's not forget the famous "your people" YouTube video!) seems to indicate a person who does not have the right personality to be holding public office. McCann should resign from the board, forego any future political involvement, and carry on with his life as a private citizen, husband and father. He is an embarrassment to the Sweetwater District and South Bay community.

Republican Party leadership - are you listening? The South Bay is laughing at McCann, but tired of his antics. He is a liability for the Republicans - if you can't control him then cut him loose. Surely there are more qualified Republicans out there who know how to hold a public office with dignity and ethics. McCann has neither. (And please - to all the commenters to this article - I know I just gave you a perfect opening.... try to resist - it is too easy!)

The scary part is that most people I have talked to believe that he won't just let this fade away, and will instead orchestrate some other "event" to bring the TRO back to the judge. Or find some other way to call attention to himself yet again. We will watch and see. McCann if you are reading this - remember the boy who cried wolf... Your credibility is gone, time to stop.

ps - another great article Susan. Thanks.


joepublic May 11, 2012 @ 9 a.m.

This event has been an embarrassing attempt by McCann to divert public attention from the real issues.

I agree, but when you think about it, it is more of the same issue-a school board member using taxpayer money for personal gain. If Superintendent Brand wants to fund a school board member's unfounded legal adventures, then he should take it out of his grossly overstuffed pockets.


erupting May 11, 2012 @ 3:14 p.m.

Grossly over stuffed is correct. Brand had the nerve to show up at the court hearing to support McCann's position. But guess what the judge said no need. We already have the paperwork that substantiates Mr. Paynes claim. Brand left In a puff of smoke. It was the highlight of the day. Daddy Brand could not protect Johnny Boy.


anniej May 12, 2012 @ 8:06 a.m.

Erupting: those that attended the court proceedings left the court room, agreeing with Mr. Stuart Payne's comments regarding leaving the difference of opinions in the board room. but then----------------

in full john mccann style, he IMMEDIATELY smiled to the camera and claimed that he feared for his life and the life of his children. is there no one who cares enough about this man to give him the 911 - "if you want to salvage any respect some may have for you - STOP THIS INSANITY"

where is brand in this? where are the others? right there i guess, secretly thanking him for keeping the press's focus off the real issue 'where is the money? what did you do with the money?' - and the cost? mccann has lost his political future, all at his own hand.



joepublic May 12, 2012 @ 8:44 a.m.

I've read that in cases where elected officials have been accused of bribery, the FBI can establish a forensic auditing team. Seems to fit perfectly in this situation. I wonder if the DA's office is talking to the FBI about that.


SurfPuppy619 May 14, 2012 @ 5:16 p.m.

I doubt the DA is doing much-considering how long it took them just to open an investigation and take action.


anniej May 12, 2012 @ 10:18 a.m.

Joepublic: thank you for that information, with all of the talk about the pay to play and the prop o monies the focus on the actual district and its financials have somewhat fallen thru the cracks - however there is work being done to bring this issue to the forefront, your comment will definitely help the cause.

hopefully we can accomplish the audit in sync with the current investigation however, once the four (4) are gone from the board, and a new superintendent is either here, or, on the way, the audit will, i am sure, be called for; which, in my opinion, would lead to a brand new investigation including some who are not part of the current probe as they are sweetwater insiders.

again, in my opinion


SurfPuppy619 May 14, 2012 @ 2:43 p.m.

McCann was represented by an attorney at the hearing. According to a May 10 U-T report, “Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand approved the legal expense. He said the affair may cost the school district around $2,400 in attorney’s fees for McCann.”

Brand HAS TO GO, that $2400 should come right out of his fat butt.

I have never in my life heard of a $2400 charge for a RO which are done pro se 99.9999% of the time.


anniej May 14, 2012 @ 6:38 p.m.

SurfPuppy619: in a fiduciary school board world you are correct - but you must have forgotten - THIS IS THE SWEETWATER BOARD you are asking to be cognizant of tax dollars, something about fiduciary responsibility and sweetwater do not equate.


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