COVER: Real estate broker and San Marcos planning commissioner Carter Morris, right, and his father Randall Morris at an event in January celebrating the company’s new affiliation with Century 21. The San Marcos Ethics Review Commission will hold a hearing tonight on allegations that Morris improperly lobbied the city council to garner support for land use entitlement changes on properties he was financially connected to. Morris aggressively denies the allegation and his attorneys put out a four-page rebuttal on Tuesday. MERCURY FILE PHOTO
9:23 p.m. WEDNESDAY, SEPT 11: The San Marcos Ethics Review Commission voted 5-2 Wednesday to issue a “letter of notification” to planning and zoning commission vice chair Carter Morris. The least severe of sanctions available to ethics commissioners, a letter of notification is reserved for ethics codes violations that are “clearly unintentional, or when the official or employee’s action was made in reliance on a written opinion of the city attorney,” according to the code.
Led by ethics commissioner Toby Hooper, a majority of the commission determined that Morris committed “minor” infractions when he met with San Marcos City Council members about a rezoning case in which he had a financial stake. Morris recused himself from P&Z votes on the proposed Sessom Drive retail/residential landmark but complainant Forrest Fulkerson successfully argued that Morris should have also refrained from discussing the project with council members.
”I’m disappointed that some commission members applied a brand new and overreaching interpretation of a provision of the city code. This new interpretation, if it stands, will prevent San Marcos citizens who serve on boards and commissions from speaking with elected officials and exercising their rights as private citizens and doing their jobs. I continue to maintain that I followed the city code and acted ethically at all times,” Morris said in a written statement issued this evening.
This is a developing story.
by BRAD ROLLINS
Returning fire a day before his Ethics Review Commission closeup, prominent Central Texas real estate broker Carter Morris on Tuesday released a spirited rebuttal to an allegation he improperly lobbied San Marcos City Council members in support of a controversial student housing development on Sessom Drive.
“I do not know why [the complainant] saw fit to file these ethics complaints a year and a half after the fact, but I vigorously contest the allegations. I fully complied with the Ethics Code and acted entirely properly,” Morris states in a 2,000-word retort provided to the San Marcos Mercury by his attorney, Peter D. Kennedy. ”I am prepared to defend myself and my name.”
After determining last month that San Marcos resident Forrest Fulkerson’s complaints met technical requirements for further consideration, the ethics commission has scheduled a special public hearing on the allegations for 5:30 p.m. today. The showdown has limitless potential for drama; Morris suggests he will treat the hearing as a full-fledged judicial proceeding and has informed the commission that his attorneys may call and question witnesses.
» Join MercuryPro: Read the full story and Morris’ complete official response to ethics complaints. Plus: Review our extensive archive of Sessom Drive development coverage.