David Morrison will have to wait until next week to find out if he retains his seat on the Prairie Village City Council. His fate rests in the hands of Judge David Hauber, who presided over Morrison’s three day trial, which concluded yesterday. A 12-member jury Wednesday found that Morrison had committed willful misconduct in office and that he willfully neglected his duty and failed to perform his duty as a council member.
However, the jury also found that Morrison had not violated any criminal statute. The jury was not asked to recommend whether or not Morrison should be removed from office. That decision rests solely with Hauber, who said he will take the jury’s finding under advisement and issue a written opinion next week.
“The ball is in my court,” Haber said Wednesday night. “This is not a cookie-cutter case.” Because the case involved removal from public office, Hauber said, he wanted an expression from the public in deciding the case. The jury’s role was strictly advisory.
The jury’s findings on misconduct and neglect of duty relate specifically to Morrison providing his friend Kelley Malone with Morrison’s security key code access to city hall and allowing the homeless man to stay inside city hall in October 2012. Morrison has admitted that he had done that.
The violation of criminal statutes were specific to theft and trespass. They involve Malone being in the building when it was closed and his use of the telephone, which incurred a little more than $9 in long distance charges. Morrison reimbursed the city for those calls.
After hearing testimony on three days this week, the jury got the case shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday. At 5 p.m. they asked for clarification about whether Morrison had dropped off Malone at City Hall on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 30, the third and last night that Malone spent sleeping in an employee lounge there. Morrison had earlier testified that he only took Malone to City Hall on Saturday and Sunday nights that week. They returned with a decision shortly before 7 p.m.
After assistant district attorney Lannie Ornburn rested his case Wednesday morning, the defense called its only witness: Morrison himself. Much of Morrison’s testimony recounted the events of the October 2012 weekend when he brought Malone to City Hall and gave him his key code that allowed entry into locked building. Morrison said he had to give Malone the code so he could get to a bathroom.
Morrison agreed, in retrospect, that it was a mistake to let Malone in the building, but he emphatically insisted that letting Malone spend the night was a humanitarian act.
“I was trying to do the right thing,” Morrison said. “It’s our building (City Hall),” Morrison testified during cross examination. “We are allowed to bring guests night or day.”
Morrison also testified that he had been advised by an assistant pastor at Village Presbyterian Church not to leave Malone alone at a hotel because of Malone’s drug-abuse history. Ornburn challenged Morrison over why he didn’t spend the night in a hotel with Malone rather than leave him alone in city hall.
Ornburn also focused on a conversation Morrison had with Prairie Village Police Chief Wes Jordan on the Monday morning after Malone had spent the weekend in city hall. Morrison talked to Jordan about Malone, but did not tell him Malone spent the night in the building. “You didn’t want him to know that he (Malone) was staying at City Hall,” Ornburn said, accusing Morrison of hiding the fact because he knew what he did was wrong.
“It didn’t affect his department,” Morrison replied. It was Jordan who discovered Malone in the city hall basement Wednesday morning. Morrison said he had told Malone it was a “bad idea” for him to go back to City Hall again that Tuesday night.