He has 5,000 purple water bottles in his garage and Mayor Ron Morrison isn’t happy.
The National City mayor told NBC 7 three pallets loaded full of water bottles were delivered to his home Monday morning from the National School District. Mayor Morrison said was approached several months ago by a District board member to help with the purchase for elementary school students heading into the summer break.
“The whole idea was to do something for the kids,” said Morrison.
The mayor said he solicited two sponsors to cover two-thirds of the $5,000 price tag for 5,000 water bottles. Morrison said he personally covered the other third. He then showed NBC 7 emails showing District Superintendent Leighanela Brady, Ph.D. approved the design.
“’I know there are two logos, addresses and the mayor’s name. As long as it’s not a campaign piece there should be no issue,’” the mayor read verbatim from one of Dr. Brady’s emails.
However, that email listed the mayor’s printing as “Mayor Ron Morrison." It read “Ron Morrison Mayor” on the final product.
Dr. Brady said, “Semantics is the issue here. The matter if whether it’s deemed political does depend on small things like the order of the words and the perceptions that come from that. Our attorney said these cases are decided on semantics.”
The purple bottles had a Mobil Gas logo address, and phone number. So did Angelo’s Towing. “Ron Morrison Mayor” was printed on the other side of the reusable water bottle. They were to be passed out to thousands of students before school ended for summer break. Mayor Morrison said the bottles were ordered and delivered before the District notified him that they actually were not okay.
Brady said, “We were not given the chance to see the mock-up (before delivery), otherwise we would have consulted our legal counsel at that time.”
“Childish adult politics gets involved,” Morrison quipped.
Dr. Brady told NBC 7 via email, “The district takes no sides in city elections and welcomes the support of the City and the mayor. The decision not to pass out the water bottles was not politically motivated, however, we were unable to distribute them as they would likely be perceived as political.”
She continued, “It is unfortunate that the students could not receive the bottles from the schools, but we could not be put in a position of violating the law.”
She cited Education Code section 7054 that forbids the district from delivering anything supporting a campaign. As school was getting out, Mayor Morrison was actively campaigning for a measure on the June Primary ballot that would allow him to run for re-election in November.
“Earlier this year,” wrote Dr. Brady, “one of our Board members approached the city about possibly providing water bottles to our students. The mayor stepped forward and said he could do that, however only after the water bottles arrived did we learn that the Ron Morrison’s donation was not city endorsed or supported. Given the proposition that was on the ballot at the time to extend the term limit of the Mayor and the Mayor’s open endorsement of that matter, we made it very clear that there could be no political endorsements on the bottle.”
“You know, if you’d a told me ahead of time I would have taken my name off and put on there ‘National City rocks’ or something else,” exclaimed Morrison. “In my opinion, this is obviously adults acting like the kids and the kids are the ones that end up losing.”
Morrison said he offered to purchase more water bottles without any printing for the students. However, he said, the district declined his offer.
In the meantime, Mayor Morrison said any parent is welcome to come by his house on Harbison Avenue to pick up one of the water bottles sitting in his garage.