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History of legal action Robert Moreno | Sat, Jul 27 2013 12:00 PM

A Sweetwater Union High School District board member is accusing one of his harshest critics of taking legal action against the district.

Board member John McCann sent court documents to The Star-News; stating Chula Vista resident Kevin O’Neill was involved in a lawsuit in 2012 with Stewart Payne, a district parent.

The accusation comes on the heels of McCann’s attorney issuing a cease and desist letter to O’Neill and his attorney last week.

The cease and desist letter states that O’Neill wrote a libelous and malicious letter to the editor, published in The Star-News July 5.

The lawsuit in question is regarding a construction contract approved by the district to Barnhart-Balfour Beatty Inc. for construction on Montgomery Middle School.

O’Neill, a member of the bond oversight committee, dismisses McCann’s claims because he said it was too late to add his name on the lawsuit.

“The district entered into a lease-leaseback agreement to build a building at Montgomery Middle,” O’Neill said. “I’m questioning whether or not that was a legal way to do it, but I dismissed that because my complaint wasn’t timely, it was too late so it never could go anywhere, so nothing came of it.”

O’Neill maintains he tried to sue the district because he was concerned how the bond money for the project was spent.

McCann, who did not elaborate further about the lawsuit, issued a statement in an e-mail to The Star-News that read: “Frivolous lawsuits like this one takes money away from our classrooms and hurt our students. I am glad the judge ruled in the school district’s favor and hope the district would pursue legal damages from the litigants.”

Kevin Carlin, attorney for Stewart Payne, said the lawsuit by Payne was a validation action filed by the district pursuant to a statute that allows the district to file a lawsuit to seek the court’s confirmation that contracts that the district is proposing to enter into are valid.

Carlin said it was the school district that filed the lawsuit versus all persons interested in the purposed award of a lease-leaseback contract for Montgomery Middle School.

Carlin said Payne also filed a complaint against the contractor claiming if the contract was not valid then any money spent on the contractor should be paid back to the district.

“My client Stewart Payne is a taxpayer and a resident in the Sweetwater Union High School District, and he had some concerns about the appropriateness and the legality of the contracts that were being purposed to be enter into,” Carlin said. “So he answered. He accepted the district’s invitation and accepted their validation lawsuit.”

The attorney said Payne was arguing that the purposed contracts weren’t valid and weren’t legal.

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