Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
At the Feb. 6 council meeting, Rich Melton, council member, introduced a motion to censure Chris Morrow, mayor, but it was tabled for legal review.
The motion said Morrow “chronically and blatantly misrepresented facts,” and Melton cited a message he had sent to (former) Sheriff Frank Denning as proof. The message read, “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.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, prepared a three page legal opinion for council review. Denk was not present but Greg Goheen, attorney attended.
Morrow introduced the agenda item Feb. 20..
Steve Shute, council president, made a point of order suggesting Morrow recuse himself from the gavel since he was subject of the motion.
Morrow asked Goheen his options. Goheen said that as chair, it was his decision to recuse himself or not.
Morrow said he would recuse himself if Shute would also, as he is running for mayor. Shute agreed, and the gavel was passed to Todd Winters, council vice president.
Shute and Morrow came off the dais and observed from the back of the room.
Winters asked Goheen to review procedure for censure.
Goheen said a process was required. The process includes a committee investigation, report, charges, formal notification and trial.
Goheen said the motion as presented was not in order. If council wanted to pursue this, he advised, the first step should be a motion to form a committee to investigate if charges were appropriate or not.
Lee Moore, councilmember, wanted to make a motion to amend the resolution. He had a presentation with slides prepared.
Before he got started, Goheen told council that amending the motion would not cure the procedural problems.
Moore cited lines from Roberts Rules of Order and stated “we do have basis to do this.”
Goheen voiced disagreement and said the chair was going to have to make a call whether the resolution is in order or not.
Winters said he would defer to the attorney and declared the motion was not in order.
“Since it’s not declared in order, then the motion is no longer in front of the body for determination,” said Goheen.
Melton’s proposal to censure appeared to be in reference to 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, Moore and Schute been involved in an attempt to censure.
In May, 2014, Melton and Moore presented the council a petition requesting previous councilmember Larry 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, and the Feb. 20 work session was held to further discussion.