John Morrison

Even Ashland Mayor John Morrison finds the cost of housing expensive in Ashland. He said he had to move out of his rental home months ago and has been staying with various friends while he looks for more permanent and affordable housing.

But he's been listing an Oak Street address as his permanent residence and it's unclear whether he's satisfying the city's charter that requires elected officials to reside in Ashland.

The Tidings was recently contacted by an Ashland resident with concerns that the mayor was using an Ashland address to receive his mail but wasn't staying at the address.

The mayor listed the address on his county commissioner candidate application form as 6371/2 Oak St. in Ashland. He used the same address for his voter's registration form, which was confirmed by Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker. The mayor also told the Tidings the address is used on his driver's license.

However, Tom Stamper, a friend of the mayor, actually resides at the Oak Street address and said Morrison doesn't live at the house.

"This is John's address," Stamper said. "He gets his mail here but he doesn't live here."

Morrison initially told the Tidings that he lives at the Oak Street address, but when he learned what Stamper said, he admitted to staying with various friends &

some of whom live in Ashland.

Morrison, who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for seat on a Jackson County Board of Commissioners, said he doesn't live at Stamper's house because it's a lifestyle preference and he is more comfortable staying at other places.

Morrison said he had previously lived at a residence on Wimer Street for about seven years.

"During that time, the rent went up about four times and I just couldn't afford it," he said.

"I am actively seeking a place to live," the 63-year-old mayor said. "I'm hoping for senior housing because I'm on a fixed income, but I haven't found a place yet. I've made no bones about the fact that rents are high in Ashland."

Ashland City Recorder Barbara Christensen said Ashland elected officials only have two requirements.

"They have to reside within the city limits and they have to be registered voters," she said.

Morrison declined to say who he'd been staying with.

"Who I'm staying with is personal and I don't want to get into that," he said. He also said that not all of the friends he's stayed with live in Ashland.

Morrison said he's made it a point to keep his personal life separate from his public life.

"I think that's little enough to ask for what I do for this town and how little I get paid," he said.

Morrison said he believes he's in full compliance with the city's charter.

He said he has paid at least $600 rent to Stamper in the past few months but has chosen not to live in the house.

When asked if the mayor pays him rent, Stamper said, "I don't wish to share that information with anyone."

The Tidings asked Morrison to provide cancelled checks or rent receipts as proof that he paid rent to Stamper. None of the documents were provided.

The Oregon Revised Statute 247.035 states that in order for a person to register to vote, "The person's residence shall be the place in which habitation is fixed"&

166;"

County Clerk Walker said several lawsuits were currently being filed in California dealing with the issue of elected officials not living in the place they list as their residence.

Ashland City Attorney Richard Appicello said in an e-mail that if an elected city officer fails to maintain the qualifications of elected office &

being an Ashland resident and a qualified voter &

that officer is automatically disqualified from holding office.

"It is my understanding that the current mayor is both a resident of the city of Ashland and a qualified voter of the city of Ashland," he said.

Appicello also said that the Jackson County Circuit Court, and not the city, would be the authority to decide whether the Ashland city officer is qualified to hold office.

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