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Judge denies restraining order Allison K. Sampité | Wed, May 09 2012 07:00 PM

A Superior Court judge today denied a request by Sweetwater Union High School district board member John McCann seeking a permanent injunction against an outspoken critic.

On April 24 McCann filed a temporary restraining order against Stewart Payne, saying he feared for his safety after Payne allegedly threatened him following an April 16 school board meeting.

McCann stated that Payne had threatened to knock him out after McCann insisted on shaking hands.

Judge Ana Espana dismissed the request without prejudice, saying the plaintiff did not show clear and convincing evidence that Payne is a future threat.

Espana said she believes the incident was a single alleged act of violence.

“It sounds like it was a heated moment,” she said. “I don’t have a reason to believe that there will be any act of future harm.”

Espana called the incident inappropriate and immature.

“I expect more adult behavior from everyone involved hence forth,” Espana said.

McCann said he filed the order because he fears for his life and that of his children, since he and Payne live a half-mile from each other and use the same park.

“We’ve stopped bringing the kids to the park,” McCann said in court. “We’ve altered out lifestyles because of this.”

Payne said he’s lived in Eastlake for nine years and has never run into McCann or his family outside of board meetings or prearranged meetings. He added that the order was about intimidation.

“I’ve never posed a threat to him,” Payne said in court. “He posed a threat to me. That is why I told him, ‘get away from me.’ He kept advancing, he kept insisting (to shake my hand).

“I’m satisfied with the judges decision,” Payne said following the hearing. “Hopefully Mr. McCann will not attack any other member of the public in this manner.”

McCann retained Randall Winet from the law firm Winet, Patrick & Weaver and requested the court have Payne pay $2,400 in legal fees.

During Monday’s regularly school board meeting, trustee Bertha Lopez asked that the matter of payment be brought up at a future meeting.

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Carlos Says:

Fri, May 11 2012 04:45 PM

Hi, AnnieJ,

It should be working now. We made a correction and that's when things went south. But the bug/kink should be out of the system.

Sorry about that.


anniej Says:

Fri, May 11 2012 04:01 PM

Mr. Davalos:

are you aware that your most recent sweetwater story is not coming up on your web site - when you click on the story nothing happens.

Carlos Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 07:35 PM

Hi, bothsides...

Absolutely we could have held onto the video until we caught up with Mr. Payne.

It was a judgement call.

We did have a brief discussion about waiting for Payne before we ran the video but (and maybe this is more behind the scenes info than you care for) we decided to go with what we had. The shorthand is, since both sides were represented in print or video, we wanted to get the info out as soon as possible. If we had a bigger staff I think we would have had more options...but that's a comment for another day.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please keep it up.


bothsides Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 06:13 PM

Carlos - Thanks for following up.

Looking over it all again, I think it was the video that tipped the scales for me. McCann's lawyer was so one-sided, and among other things made it sound like the judge only admonished Payne to act like an adult, but evidently it was aimed at both of them. Maybe the video could have been edited a little differently?

I read your other responses and understand that you tried to get video of Payne but weren't successful. So maybe the video of McCann's attorney could have been held until both sides had a chance to respond.

Generally I like the Star News coverage of local events, and I do respect the fact that you asked for clarification.

Carlos Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 02:17 PM

Hi, Concerned,

I think I addressed a similar issue with AnnieJ. Maybe give it a look and let me know if it answers your initial point?

As for contacting one party...in the print story we quote both McCann and Payne.

As for only getting McCann on video, I waited for about 30 mins after the hearing, hoping to catch Payne on camera.

Unfortunately Payne didn't exit the building before it was time for me to leave.

Thanks for writing!


carlos Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 02:06 PM



You bring up a fair point.

The judges comments were relevant and interesting.

Given more time to provide a deeper, more detailed account of the proceedings those details probably would have been included.

However, as editor I told our staffer to get the story done ASAP so we could post ASAP.

Sometimes, when we're up against the clock we have to leave out some of the more relevant items in favor of the integral bare bones information. In this case the judge denied the injunction because it sounded like a one-time incident.

We got the basic information out there and the information, while perhaps not as detailed as it could have been given the circumstances, was correct and on point.

And finally, no need to thank me for asking. Instead, I'm thanking you for your time and feedback.


Concerned Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 01:50 PM

I can tell you that one of the things left out is that the judge pointed out more than once that McCann had failed to prove that there was basis for his 'fear for safety'. The Judge also expressed she expected a more mature behavior from elected officials.
Yet a question for Carlos, you mean to say you had time to only contact one party and decided to glorify the loosing party?? you chose the 'bully' that tried to make an example out of Payne to other taxpaying citizens who dare to be watchful and outspoken..
Funny to me that McCann chose a man that in the years I have been attending meetings has yet to even raise his voice once during oral communications.

aniej Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 01:27 PM

from my perspective, and i am cognizant that i am but one person, i believe the fact that judge found inconsistencies in the statements were an important piece of the puzzle and the article might have addressed what those inconsistencies were - as they appeared to play a major role in her decision.

TRO's are taken seriously by the Courts, as they should be. but they should NOT be used as a club to silence -especially in the political arena.

i was most disappointed to see mr. mccann's obvious dismissal of the judges wise words regarding taking a different path for all involved (paraphrasing) IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING HER VOICING THEM.

as a side note, i would like to thank you for asking. fair and unbalanced reporting of the news is the cornerstone of freedom of the press - we may not always agree with each other, but when such reporting is made available - venues, such as this, offers us the opportunity to consider each others opinions - as food for thought.

Carlos Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 12:47 PM

Hi, AnnieJ.

We included the video in effort to add another element/dimension to the story telling. Part of it was to bring closure and part of it was for the people involved to speak for themselves.

Regrettably we didn't catch Stewart Payne in time for his response on video. A pressing deadline required that I leave about 30 mins after the hearing was over.

With regard to your comment about factual reporting...can you tell me what facts we left out or got wrong? If you think we fell short I'd like to know why and how, so perhaps we can remedy the issue.

Any more feedback you can give us is appreciated and welcome.


Carlos Davalos Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 12:41 PM

Hi, bothsides.

Thanks for the feedback.

I'd like to address the issues you're bringing up but need just a little more insight, if you don't mind.

Can you elaborate a bit more about how we were not even-handed and what sort of investigation would have made the story more accurate? Please?


bothsides Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 11:40 AM

Just read in another news source that the judge admonished both sides for their behavior. Important point that McCann's lawyer failed to mention in the video.

bothsides Says:

Thu, May 10 2012 11:35 AM

From what I have read and seen from many sources McCann is making a mountain out of a mole hill. After reading lots of accounts of that night it seems to me that:
- McCann approached Payne, not the other way around.
- after their exchange of words McCann went on to talk to another person in the group standing there, so it doesn't seem like he was afraid for his safety at that time.
- the security guard, who was carrying an unlicensed weapon, and is paid by the district, initially said he never believed McCann was in any danger
- he later changed his story and said they escorted McCann away for his safety, yet we know McCann continued to talk to members of the group for several minutes.
- McCann presented no evidence that Payne has ever initiated any contact with him.
- the judge said there was no evidence that there was need to continue the TRO.

For McCann to say he is scared for his family seems like a complete exaggeration. He is just trying to make the people who don't support him look bad. This ploy for the public's attention backfired. Get over it McCann.

What is obvious is that the Sweetwater District is a mess. If the current leadership can't steer a course to a more productive and honest relationship with it's community then they need to go and allow others to begin the process of rebuilding a district that the community can be proud of.

Unfortunately the Star-News coverage wasn't as even sided as it could have been. A little more in-depth investigation might have made a more accurate story.

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