When David Morrison enters the Prairie Village City Council chambers Monday to hear his colleagues debate what disciplinary action to take against him for allowing a homeless man with a drug history to wander unattended through city hall, it won’t be the first time he’s found himself as odds with the governing body on which he’s served since 2008.
Morrison is still in the process of appealing the latest decision in a lengthy legal dispute in which he and the city have been entangled since shortly after his initial election.
Morrison circulated a petition intended to delay enactment of a new city ordinance that allowed Prairie Village to fund parks projects — instead of just street projects — with bond money. He obtained enough signature to force the issue onto a ballot, but the city challenged the petition on the basis that Morrison hadn’t exactly followed the petition procedure set forth in state law. The city won its initial case against Morrison in district court. That initial ruling was affirmed by an appellate court in December 2011, after which Morrison vowed to take the issue to the state Supreme Court. The legal wrangling over the petition incident has already amassed legal fees exceeding $10,000.
Morrison’s involvement in the case — and its cost to taxpayers — has been a sticking point with his colleagues on the council. After his re-election in April, several councilors questioned whether he was fit to assume the role of Council President, a position customarily granted to the longest-serving councilor who has not held it already.
The councilors eventually voted to allow Morrison to serve as Council President, but the title was quickly revoked following the revelation of the ethics complaint against him.
Morrison sent a letter to the city’s attorney last week formally waiving his right to a hearing determining whether an ethics violation had occurred.
“I deeply regret the way in which I handled this situation and sincerely apologize…I made a terrible mistake despite the best of my intentions,” he wrote. “Please take into account that I allowed a homeless individual to temporarily take shelter and sanctuary in the municipal building because, base upon his statements and my personal knowledge of his past, I truly believed him to be in fear for his life…In deciding what action to take against me for the code violations, i would ask the council to take into consideration my decades of public service to the City of Prairie Village…”
Whether Morrison’s peers on the council will also take into consideration his sometimes contentious history with with the group remains to be seen.