Mad River Union
TRINIDAD – A smoldering controversy burst into flame at the July 25 meeting of the Trinidad City Council meeting. The source of the heat was an allegation, made two months earlier, that Trinidad Planning Commissioner Mike Morgan brought a stun gun to a public meeting of the Trinidad Planning Commission.
The issue did not appear on the July 25 agenda, but emerged during the more informal “Items From the Floor,” the time when members of the public are allowed to speak about any topic that is not already listed on the agenda.
According to two residents, Dorothy Cox and Brett Gregory, Morgan, who had been appointed to the Planning Commission only a short time earlier, allegedly brought a stun gun to the May 16 meeting of the commission.
Morgan is no stranger to city politics: he served a four-year term on the Trinidad City Council from 2009 to 2012 and a previous term on the Trinidad Planning Commission from 2009-2012. At the May 9 Trinidad City Council meeting at which Morgan was confirmed, several members of the public and the council expressed doubts about his suitability for the position, but he was nonetheless given the job.
Gregory, who was vice chair of the Planning Commission said at the July 25 City Council meeting that he had observed the weapon at the earlier Planning Commission meeting.
“I witnessed this not because I wanted to or went out of my way or was looking for anything. This thing was put on a table in front of me in a way that if the table wasn’t there, it would have been on my foot. It was that close to me and I saw it,” he said. Gregory emphasized that he was not the person who had made the original complaint about the issue to City Manager Dan Berman, but was simply a witness.
He said he felt targeted by the controversy surrounding the issue – and by threats of litigation from Morgan.
“Now because of all this that has transpired, I feel like I can’t make meaningful decisions with cogent thoughts in the same room as this other person. So ... I’m going to resign from the Planning Commission effective immediately,” Gregory stated.
Cox also said that she had observed the weapon, and was initially listed as a “John Doe” in Berman’s written report about the incident. But now, she said, she felt that it was important to come forward and identify herself.
“I saw Planning Commissioner Morgan place a taser gun on the table during a break in the meeting,” she said.”I originally made a statement to City Manager Berman and asked not to be named and there were reasons for that. I’ve been advised that a first-person report is much more credible than an anonymous report... but now I choose to say publicly what I saw.”
“I am not a liar,” Cox continued. “I did not exaggerate. I did not make the original complaint to the city manager. My audio-recorded report to the city manager is factual.”
The original complaint was made to the city manager by Trinidad residents Kathleen Lake and Tom Davies on June 19. That complaint was part of the board packet issued to members of the city council and posted on the City’s website.
“Having a disagreement with someone over an issue is typical and expected in public meetings, however this level of conduct is outside not only of professional conduct, but also outside the law,” the complaint states.
City Manager Dan Berman disagreed. In a City memo dated July 7, he said, “The complaint regarding the May 16th Planning Commission is a third hand account, as the person filing it was not present, and is reporting events witnessed by other party and shared with them.”
He did acknowledge that “Mr. Morgan, against the advice of City staff, chose to bring pepper spray (or mace?) to the June Planning Commission meeting, and to a June Council meeting and to carry it in a manner visible to the public.”
Morgan briefly addressed the council, stating that he was issuing a legal Misconduct and Non-Infraction Complaint against Berman. The complaint said that Berman had “incorrectly reported my response to questions regarding false allegations made by some anonymous person,” and that in a subsequent meeting about the issue had angrily said “Fuck you Mike.”
When asked by the Union for a statement, Morgan said that he wanted to make one, but could not.
Mayor Susan Rotwein suggested that the city find a way to videotape its City Council and Planning Commission meetings, in the hope that this would bring a more professional air to the proceedings.