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Mayor Morrison asked to step down

ASHLAND ' Asked to resign by the city's former school board chairman at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, freshman Mayor John Morrison said campaign ethics questions have been answered and he will stay put.

Dr. John Maurer, a long-time school board chairman and orthopedic surgeon in Ashland, told the mayor that because he took advantage of his position at Rogue Valley Council of Governments to create campaign materials on RVCOG equipment, Morrison should do the right thing and step down.

Morrison, who was presiding over the council meeting, responded that RVCOG regarded the actions ' using computers, printers and copiers to produce dozens of political documents for his campaign ' a violation of company policy but not election fraud ' and it was referred to the Bureau of Elections Standards (state Government Standards and Practices Commission) and they agreed with that.

Maurer, speaking during a council comment period, said the mayor is articulate, concerned and runs a wonderful meeting, but Maurer said he wanted the resignation ' or an explanation of why it wasn't forthcoming ' out of concern for a level playing field in the election and from concern for the integrity of the mayor's office.

Morrison, who has admitted the wrongdoing, in December paid RVCOG a &

36;2,500 fine and resigned his job as a community development director there.

— I'm not happy with this moment in my life and I consider it a personal failing — not fraud, Morrison said.

He has been held responsible by his former employer and exposure in Mail Tribune news coverage, and he has taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Maurer said he expressed his views at the request of Councilwoman Cate Hartzell, after council members said they would take no action on the matter. Hartzell earlier said action, if any, would have to be initiated by citizen complaints.

City Recorder Barbara Christensen said she has received a few upset calls asking how to file a complaint about the matter. Morrison said he's aware of only Maurer's complaint and one other. Maurer said he intended only to make his verbal complaint at the council and not pursue it through state ethics channels.

In an interview, Morrison's predecessor as mayor, Alan DeBoer said, It's not a big deal. No one expects him to quit. John got penalized and it's over. He did something without thinking it through and he admitted his mistake. His penalty was larger than any benefit he might have got.

DeBoer added that, for elected officials, the biggest fear is doing something stupid, because you're under a microscope and that's why a lot of people don't run for office.

At the council, Morrison concluded, I just want to move ahead. I've had a tremendous amount of support. — I'm not making excuses. It's regrettable, and hopefully I can move on and perform my duties as mayor.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org