A Morgan Hill resident has publicly accused a city council member of verbally accosting him at a recent public event, although perceptions of the incident differ among those who were involved or witnessed it.
During public comment at the June 15 Morgan Hill City Council meeting, Monica Guynn recounted her husband Rob Guynn’s recollection of his interaction days prior with Councilmember John McKay. The interaction took place at a June 11 giveaway at a local nonprofit.
Guynn said when Rob attempted to shake McKay’s hand at the event, McKay “grabbed his hand, pulled my husband toward him and very loudly called my husband an ‘A-hole.’”
McKay later admitted he called Rob Guynn an “asshole,” but said he declined to shake his hand at that moment and did not physically pull him. McKay said he called Guynn the unsavory name based on Guynn’s past record of behavior on social media that McKay characterized as false, unfair and bullying.
“I told him he unfairly attacked me and others on social media,” McKay told this newspaper.
In an interview with the Times, McKay also referenced Guynn’s past involvement in politics, in which Guynn was accused of harassing and insulting Morgan Hill Unified School District trustees by email in 2015. One of the trustees at that time obtained a temporary restraining order against Guynn, the Times reported.
At the June 15 meeting, Monica Guynn continued that McKay “loudly” proclaimed to those around them that Rob “is the guy who has been writing all this s*** about me on social media, spreading lies, him and his friends.” McKay then told Rob Guynn that he is “not so tough without his keyboard warriors.” McKay also reportedly told a bystander, “This is what local politics is all about,” Monica Guynn said.
“Council member McKay embarrassed, intimidated and harassed my husband, who was at the event volunteering his time,” Guynn told the council.
McKay also acknowledged he made a comment about “keyboard warriors,” and he did not yell but his voice was “probably a little elevated above normal.”
After their initial interaction, McKay, Guynn and other volunteers continued to help with traffic control and carrying boxes, groceries and other items to clients.
McKay said he continued to think about their interaction and decided he would approach Guynn and try to talk about their differences. He said the two of them then “talked for quite a while” in a more civil tone. “I told him this stuff (on social media) is really hurtful. It’s really hard on our families,” McKay said.
He said that he and Guynn apologized to each other before their conversation was over. “I thought we left on very good terms,” McKay said, adding he was “caught off guard” by Monica Guynn’s account at the June 15 meeting.
Rob Guynn’s account of this later conversation differs from McKay’s. He said he tried to “deescalate” the incident and told McKay, “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you or your family in any way. I do not recall ever calling you any names on social media.”
He said he does “not recall Mr. McKay offering any apology.” Guynn deferred to his wife’s June 15 statement for additional details about the incident.
Both McKay and Rob Guynn offered Morgan Hill Mayoral candidate Mark Turner as a witness, as he was standing nearby at the June 11 event.
Turner, who attended the giveaway as a volunteer, confirmed Monica Guynn’s description of the dialogue that he heard between McKay and Rob Guynn. He said he did not see any physical contact between the two—not even a handshake. He also confirmed that he told McKay, “This is not the time or place” after McKay used profanity toward Guynn. “That seemed to fall on deaf ears,” Turner said.
He added, “In my opinion, the comments made by Councilmember McKay were both unbecoming and inappropriate. With regards to that exchange, I saw no physical interaction.”
The June 11 giveaway event took place at Cecelia’s Closet and Food Pantry, a nonprofit that provides donated goods to families in need. The nonprofit’s Executive Director, Cecelia Ponzini, said she didn’t witness any hostile or “unusual” contact between any of the volunteers during the busy event. But she doesn’t want the incident or accusations to overshadow her foundation’s focus.
“Volunteers come to assist our community’s most challenged families, NOT DRAMA,” she wrote in an email to the Times.
Other event volunteers contacted by the Times said they did not notice any unusually loud, physical or hostile interactions between McKay, Guynn or anyone else in attendance.
Under state open meeting laws, council members are not permitted to discuss or comment on items that are not on the meeting agenda. Monica Guynn spoke during an open comment period at the beginning of the June 15 meeting.
Later in the meeting, Councilmember Yvonne Martinez Beltran suggested during a discussion of downtown traffic safety, that McKay should “offer a public apology” to Rob Guynn. Mayor Rich Constantine admonished Martinez Beltran not to comment on the incident.
Martinez Beltran, who was not present at the June 11 event, later requested that the council include a “discussion on civility and behavior as a councilmember in public” on an upcoming meeting agenda.
City Manager Christina Turner said Martinez Beltran and McKay contacted her regarding the June 11 incident before the June 15 meeting. She said Martinez Beltran’s comments were “very consistent” with her request at the end of the meeting, and Turner responded by forwarding the council’s ethics policy to Martinez Beltran.
McKay sought to provide the city manager with details about the incident before the June 15 meeting, Turner said.
Guynn said he attended the June 11 giveaway as a photographer for Mark Turner’s mayoral campaign, and to volunteer for Cecelia’s Closet.
In 2015, Guynn joined a small group of local activists in trying to recall MHUSD Board of Education President (at the time) Bob Benevento. Through an open records request, he was found to have been participating in email exchanges with former Trustee David Gerard that were insulting toward other trustees.
Former Trustee Amy Porter Jensen filed for a temporary protective order against Guynn due to a barrage of emails he sent her. Porter Jensen ultimately resigned from the board largely because of Guynn’s emails, she told the Times in 2015.