Petty Politics Sinking To A New Low? - NBC 7 San Diego

Petty Politics Sinking To A New Low?

Two Long Time Rivals In Parking Lot Tiff

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    Spat Involving Political Rivals Caught on Cam

    Two long-time rivals from the embattled Sweetwater Union High School district got into an disturbance Tuesday night in a Chula Vista mall parking lot. NBC 7's Rory Devine has both sides of the story from John McCann and Kevin O'Neill on Nov. 21, 2014. (Published Monday, Nov. 24, 2014)

    Two long-time rivals from the embattled Sweetwater Union High School district got into an disturbance Tuesday night in a Chula Vista mall parking lot.

    Former Sweetwater board president John McCann, who is now in a tie in a Chula Vista City Council seat race, called 911 Tuesday night to report a traffic disturbance in the 900-block of Eastlake Parkway. He followed up with calls to the media to report that a community activist had almost run him over with his truck.

    Kevin O'Neill, an active community member who just lost a race for a seat on the Sweetwater school board, said he never tried to hit McCann with his truck and was not violent in any way.

    NBC7 obtained surviellance video from a business in a Chula Vista mall showing the altercation between these two men. The video does not show what happened before or after the quarrel or what may have provoked it.

    What it does show is O'Neill pulling up beside McCann on two occasions.

    It all began with dinner at Miguel's restaurant in Eastlake Tuesday night. McCann was dining out with Sweetwater Superintendent Tim Glover, and O'Neill was also at the restaurant.

    "I don't dislike John," O'Neill said. "I don't support him. I don't think he's an effective leader." 

    McCann said O'Neill is a bully. "If he doesn't get what he wants, he tries to go after you this way," he said.

    By this way, McCann means he thinks O'Neill tried to run him over with his truck. McCann was outside the restaurant to take a call from the Registrar of Voters, concerning his city council race. An update Tuesday from the Registrar showed McCann just one vote ahead of former Chula Vista mayor Steve Padilla. That race is now a dead tie. 

    The video shows McCann standing near planter in a parking lot and a white truck pulling up beside him, pausing for a moment and then driving away. McCann said he feared for his safety.

    "Kevin O'Neill came over, drove his truck, came in front of me, started yelling at me and tried to intimidate me, flipped me off and left," McCann said.

    O'Neill says he never raised his voice, and was only reminding McCann that he had left the superintendent, with whom McCann had been dining, waiting at the table for 15 to 20 minutes.

    "To me, it was inconsiderate. That's all I said," O'Neill told NBC7. "I continued driving and John chased the truck and was banging on the truck."

    In the video, you can see McCann running. He says he was running to get a photo of the truck's license plate as proof that it was O'Neill. Whatever happens next is out of frame, so the alleged banging on O'Neill's truck is not visible.

    The video then shows O'Neill returning, and that's when he says McCann banged on his truck again.

    "I came back around and I was like, 'John, do you want to speak to me?' And that's when he took off on how I was undercutting him and I was a blankety-blankety-blank and I didn't stay past that because it didn't make sense," O'Neill said.

    McCann said he was in danger.

    "I don't remember banging on the truck and, again, if anything, I pushed away," McCann said. "He's the one who is in the truck. I'm on foot. He's the one who tried to run me over." 

    McCann also denies throwing anything at O'Neill's truck.

    After O'Neill drove by the first time, the video appears to show McCann bend down to the ground, where rocks anchor the base of the planter, stand up and then make an overhand pitch in the direction of O'Neill's truck.

    Even after NBC7 described to McCann the motions he appears to be making in the surveillance video, he continued to deny throwing anything at O'Neill's truck.

    "I never threw anything at the truck. I was carrying a phone. I was on the phone and I think I may have dropped the phone, so I did not throw anything at his truck," McCann said.

    After viewing the video Friday, McCann changed his statement to he didn't remember throwing anything at the truck. He also provided NBC7 with some papers that he says are proof that O'Neill is out to get him politically.

    "This is a guy who spent thousands of dollars on false campaign ads against me," McCann said. "He has continuously bullied me and for him to say that he was just innocently coming up to me while I was on foot is a complete lie," McCann said.

    O'Neill said he never tried to hit McCann with his truck.

    "Which one of us is overreacting? Which one is showing leadership and maybe a little more constraint?" O'Neill said. "But, I shouldn't have to avoid him at all costs because he is mercurial."