CV Spent $16,000 to Find Out ‘Gringo’ Isn’t Considered Discrimination

CV Spent $16,000 to Find Out ‘Gringo’ Isn’t Considered Discrimination

Created: 10 January, 2022
Last update: 26 July, 2022

By Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter

The City of Chula Vista spent nearly $16,000 in legal fees to investigate whether the Hispanic Mayor calling a White Councilman a “Gringo” constitutes discrimination.

The answer, apparently, is no.

The investigation stems from a formal complaint filed by Chula Vista Councilman John McCann (pictured above) back in February 2021. McCann complained that Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas called him a “Gringo” when he said he couldn’t handle spicy food at a Mexican restaurant.

McCann filed the complaint with the City’s Human Resources director. The complaint was investigated by an outside lawyer from the law firm of Best, Best & Krieger, a firm that represents many local government agencies.

The incident took place at a Mexican restaurant on Third Ave where Salas and another councilmember, Jill Galvez, were eating. McCann stopped to chat and mentioned that he wasn’t eating because he’s not “able to eat spicy food”, to which Salas responded that it was because he’s “a Gringo.”

McCann took offense at the word and thought it was discriminatory and meant to make him feel “unwelcomed”.

The investigator interviewed both Salas and McCann and found that the “use of the word ‘Gringo’ on one occasion in this informal setting and to describe a person’s attribute of not being able to eat spicy food does not rise to the level of unreasonably interfering with someone’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment, as required to find a violation of law”.

The total bill for the investigation was $15,838.50.

McCann has been involved in two other recent investigations filed against him.

In one complaint, McCann was accused of improperly sending 200 gift bags to residents of the Congregational Tower, a senior living apartment building near Third Avenue. The bags, purchased using City funds, were addressed to individual tenants and included a paper listing contact information for local government agencies, along with a picture of McCann and a slogan “Councilman John McCann. A Leader We Know. A Leader We Trust.” The slogan was in both English and Spanish.

Steve Padilla

Salas, along with Councilmembers Jill Galvez and Steve Padilla, complained that the gift bags were a political stunt used by McCann to raise his visibility among voters before his campaign for Mayor in the 2022 elections. They argued that McCann, who represents District 1 in the Eastlake area of the City, was contacting voters in another district in preparation for his Citywide campaign for Mayor.

The City Council then passed a resolution approving a new policy that limits Councilmembers from sending communications paid by City resources to residents outside of their respective districts. Any of them can still use their own money or campaign funds to communicate which anyone in the City.

McCann was also the subject of another complaint filed with both the City and the California Fair Political Practices Commission which challenged his use of a legal defense fund to raise $90,000 to cover legal fees he incurred after suing a local union over a campaign mailer. McCann collected campaign checks from local developers, contractors, and supporters who have issues before the Council.

Specifically, McCann received 21 contribution between May 2016 and March 2021, ranging from $1,000 to $12,000, including a $12,000 check from Baldwin & Sons, a development company with active projects in Eastern Chula Vista, including parts of the Otay Ranch communities; a $10,000 from Home Fed Corporation, a large land holding company that owns thousands of development acres in Otay Ranch; and $3,500 from Republic Services, the private company that has a contract with the City to pick up trash and recycling and is currently dealing with a workers’ strike that has delayed trash collection in the City.

All of the checks are higher than the City’s contribution limit of $360 for Mayor and Council candidates.

Another issue related to McCann was an accusation by Galvez that he used her email list to send out his own political emails. Galvez claims her relatives received emails from McCann even though they have never corresponded with him. McCann alleges he does not have a copy of Galvez’s email list.

Galvez and McCann are both running for Mayor in this year’s elections. Galvez is currently the Councilmember representing District 2, and gave up her option to run for re-election by deciding to run for Mayor.

McCann is currently the councilmember for District 1 and is restricted from running for re-election as he has already served two consecutive terms since being elected in 2014. McCann had also served two consecutive terms between 2002 and 2010.