When the Prairie Village City Council meets Nov. 4, former councilman David Morrison will find himself in a different chair.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
“I will be attending the meetings. I intend to remain active and engaged,” said Morrison, who was ousted from the council in a court case decided Friday. “I’ll just be attending them from the galley.”
Johnson County District Judge David W. Hauber ruled that Morrison should be ousted as a result of Morrison’s decision to allow Kelley Malone, a homeless friend, to sleep at City Hall for four nights.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Mayor Ron Schaffer of the judge’s decision. “It cast a bit of a spell over previous meetings. Now we can get on with our business without this issue hanging over us.”
When asked if he would appeal the decision, Morrison, who estimated that he has spent tens of thousands of dollars on his defense, said he needed to review the case with his attorney Tom Bath in order to determine the next course of action. In addition to a potential appeal of the civil case, Morrison said he’s been approached by several Ward 5 residents eager to see him run again.
“I’m about a hair away from filing to run in the Ward 5 race next April,” said Morrison, referring to the seat currently held by Councilman Charles Clark.
In the interim, Shaffer is responsible for nominating someone to fill the vacant seat in Ward 5. He intends to interview interested parties and then make a recommendation to the sitting council.
“I will not impose a timeline of two or three or four weeks. It takes time to meet everybody and check their background,” said Shaffer. “But I’m hoping to have the seat filled within the next two months.”
Shaffer’s nomination would need to be approved by a majority of the council in attendance on the night of the vote. If approved, the nominee would take the seat immediately and serve out the rest of Morrison’s term through 2016. The vacancy in Ward 5 comes at a critical time with a new site plan under review for the Mission Chateau development in the district.
“I think I’ve represented Ward 5 well,” Morrison said. “Ward 5 is overwhelmingly opposed to the Mission Chateau project and Ward 5 as, of right now, doesn’t have a representative that shares that voice.”
Clark voted in favor of approving the special use permit for the Tutera Group’s senior living development on the site of the former Mission Valley Middle School at a Sept. 3 meeting of the council. The application was denied because the proposal failed to gain a super majority as required by a protest petition filed by the adjacent property owners.
Clark could not be reached for comment.
Shaffer acknowledged that the debate over Mission Chateau adds another degree of complexity to the nomination process.
“It’s always a pressure-filled event when there’s a vacancy on the council,” Shaffer said. “I’m sure the Mission Chateau project will weigh in there somewhere. It will be a factor.”
Morrison, who served on the council since 2008, believes that his vocal opposition to the development, as well as criticism of the Community Improvement District for the Prairie Village Shops, were contributing political factors in why the council voted to file an ouster complaint with the Johnson County district attorney’s office last November.
“It’s about the fact that I opposed the current power structure and was the first one to break through,” said Morrison. “They always go after the first guy. I was the first to break the stranglehold of the Prairie Village mafia.”
Shaffer responded that Morrison’s actions are what led to Judge Hauber’s decision.
“According to the judge he was guilty of performing an act that wasn’t in the best interests of the city and trying to deflect that guilt toward myself or another council member isn’t right,” said Mayor Shaffer.
Morrison acknowledges that he was wrong to allow Malone to stay at City Hall, but doesn’t believe he should be watching council proceedings from the galley.
“There were no laws broken. I didn’t gain in any way,” said Morrison. “In fact, I gave up everything to help someone in need. I did the right thing, but I did it the wrong way.”