Chris Morrow,Gardner mayor, has written a letter to the editor denying an accusation that he chronically and blatantly misrepresents facts, as alleged by a resolution to censure introduced by Rich Melton, councilman, at Gardner’s Feb. 6 city council meeting. The resolution was tabled for legal review.
In the letter, Morrow says that if the censure appears on the Feb. 20 council agenda, he will demand the right to defend himself.
Melton, during the Feb. 6 meeting, cited a message he had sent to (former) Sheriff Frank Denning as proof regarding a disputed meeting date. The message reads, “Hello Sheriff, could you please give me a call on my cell phone(number). . . I have a question related to Gardner from a council person’s perspective.” The message is dated Oct. 28, 2016.
There is no indication if Denning replied, the topic of discussion, or if a conversation took place.
Morrow said he was unclear what the private message represented, “I’m not sure what it represents for Councilman Melton, but it was the lone piece of information he distributed to support the claims spelled out in his resolution.”
At press time, Melton had not replied to a request for a statement or additional information. This story will be updated if additional information is received.
Morrow said he did not recall any previous discussion regarding Melton’s allegation of “chronic and blatant misrepresentation of facts,” as stated in the censure resolution.
At this point, the resolution is being reviewed by the city’s attorney. “The censure resolution was tabled until the next council meeting in part to receive legal advice on how to proceed,” Morrow said. “Along with the city administrator, the council president, and Councilman Melton, I received an email containing advice from the city attorney. As with all correspondence from the city attorney, I consider it confidential unless otherwise advised.”
In Morrow’s letter, he says both he and Melton confused dates on the issue, but that he doesn’t blame Melton, and he hasn’t impugned his reputation.
The concern seems to regard an agenda and meeting time to discuss options for the reporting structure of Gardner Police Department which was originally brought up last Spring; the topic had been postponed when a meeting was cancelled. Five council meetings were cancelled in 2016, primarily due to attendance issues.
This isn’t the first time Melton has been involved in an attempt to censure.
In May, 2014, Melton and Lee Moore presented the council a petition requesting Fotovich’s resignation, who they believed lived in Olathe. The proposal to censure Fotovich, was introduced by Steve Schute, councilmember, and it was later withdrawn after council was told such an action might have violated due process and potentially create liability for defamation and libel.
In January, 2017, Melton gave a presentation that the GPD not report to the city administrator, as has been the case since the 1980’s.
During that meeting, Melton said, “This is the only department that works 24-7, 365. The needs of the department to operate in any weather conditions, during holidays, overnights, alone, shows why they need to be looked at differently.” Melton suggested the Citizens Police Advisory Commission, of which he is chair, should be established as an intermediary board that could report to the council.
The letter to the editor appears on page 3. A video of the complete meeting is available on the city’s website.