One year and three weeks after a Johnson County judge’s ruling forced him to relinquish his seat on the City Council, Ward 5 representative David Morrison was back behind the dais as a member of the Prairie Village governing body Monday.
The Kansas Court of Appeals on Oct. 28 ordered Morrison be reseated on the council immediately after overturning his ouster, which stemmed from Morrison’s decision to provide a homeless friend with a history of drug abuse with his security access code to city hall. The homeless man, Kelley Malone, spent four nights unaccompanied at in the municipal facilities, at one point bringing an unidentified woman into the council chambers and then disappearing into a side room for an hour.
Morrison retook his seat without fanfare, walking back to the chair he occupied for five and a half years without speaking to any of his council peers. He remained silent throughout the bulk of the meeting, but used the “New Business” section of the agenda just before the meeting’s end to defend his decision to grant Malone access to the building and lash out at Mayor Ron Shaffer.
“I want to again repeat that I made a huge mistake, I’m very sorry for what I did, but it won’t affect my judgment moving forward,” he said. “That was a one-time lapse in judgment. And to the people — to you Mayor Shaffer — who continue to try to remove me from my rightfully elected office, I would just say that what I did was the right thing to do. I may have done it the wrong way.”
Morrison then went on to contrast his decision to grant Malone access to city hall with “the wrong things” Shaffer had done “the right way,” specifically accepting political campaign contributions from companies and law firms that have business with the city. In a sometimes breathless series of remarks, Morrison said Shaffer’s acceptance of campaign money from interests associated with LANE4, the Tutera Group, the city’s law firm, Lathrop and Gage, and others amounted to “a cesspool of soft corruption.”
“You do it for personal benefit and gain,” Morrison said. “I on the other hand did something that was for humanitarian reasons. I did it the wrong way.”
After Morrison concluded, Shaffer said Morrison’s comments “weren’t worth responding to.”
Morrison’s return to the council means Courtney McFadden, the Ward 5 resident appointed by Shaffer to fill the remainder of Morrison’s term, was bumped from her seat. At the beginning of the official council meeting Monday, Shaffer read a proclamation thanking McFadden, who had quickly developed a reputation as a potential bridge between the long-serving members of the council and those elected over the past four years, factions that have been frequently at odds in recent months.
“It’s been really an honor and a pleasure working with everyone,” she said. “I hope to work with you all in the future on whatever endeavors may lie in front of us.”
The Johnson County District Attorney has until the end of this week to submit a petition to the Kansas Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals ruling that restored Morrison to his seat. Morrison’s current term expires in April 2016.
Last week, the city installed a new locking system at Prairie Village city hall that allows police to better track who enters the building.