The Star-News

School district's attorney attempts to silence critic

Wed, Jul 17 2013 02:12 PM Posted By: Robert Moreno

An attorney for the Sweetwater Union High School District alleges that a letter to the editor authored by Kevin O'Neill has libelous and malicious content toward one of its board members.

Daniel Shinoff, an attorney for the district and appointed by Dr. Ed Brand, sent a cease and desist notice to O'Neill and his attorney Sean Cahill, which contends that a letter published July 5 in The Star-News contains false and damaging statements.

“Included in the letter were false statements intended to harm the reputation of Mr. McCann including accusations of abandonment of a military position and a false accounting of the events at the last school board meeting,” Shinoff’s letter states.

McCann said in an interview that O’Neill is maliciously attacking his military service.

“He is making libelous statements about my military service, which has nothing to do with the school board,” McCann said.

O'Neill's July 5 letter read, in part:

"Secondly, the ready abandonment by a Reserve Naval officer of his duty station (the Board meeting of 17 June) to pursue a bogus agenda — "theft" of a $2.50 three-year old campaign sign is repugnant."

The cease and desist notice comes after O'Neill's attorney last week delivered a letter to board president Jim Cartmill seeking to censure McCann in anticipation of legal action against McCann.

Cahill wrote at the time:

“Therefore, prior to seeking legal redress against Mr. McCann, Kevin O'Neill herby requests the Board to immediately censure John McCann and adopt a resolution not to pay for his indemnity or defense related to this matter as a result of Mr. McCann's 1) abuse of process: 2) improper posting of a campaign sign and 3) his inappropriate conduct in abandoning the June 17, 2013 board meeting…”

McCann called the censure "frivolous."

O'Neill said he doesn't want the district involved because this is an issue between him and McCann.

"I don't think it's proper that the district defend him," O’Neill said.

O'Neill's attorney said in the letter that O'Neill is trying to repair his reputation from a school board incident in which McCann called the police on him for allegedly stealing a campaign sign.

"As the result of Mr. McCann’s outrageous, malicious and inappropriate conduct, Mr. O’Neill has suffered damages to his personal and professional reputation as well as related economic damages,” the letter states.

O’Neill is a member of the district’s bond oversight committee.

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