By Joel Hall
Morrow Mayor Jim Millirons, a notable figure in Morrow politics for more than 30 years, announced Tuesday he would step down before the end of his term, in order to deal with health problems.
According to Morrow City Clerk Evyonne Browning, the mayor made the announcement during the city's regular council meeting on Tuesday. She said that Millirons, who suffered a stroke last year, has since only been able to walk with the use of a walker or motorized wheelchair.
"He said that he would not run again and that most likely, at the first of the year, that he would likely resign for health reasons," Browning said, speaking on behalf of Millirons on Thursday. "He indicated that it would be after January. He said it is possible that he may finish his term, but his family is really encouraging him to take some time [to deal with his health].
"He is taking therapy daily," she continued. "He had a stroke last year and it is to help him gain strength in his legs. He is staying optimistic."
Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady, a city employee for more than 20 years, said Millirons served first as a city council member, then as the city manager before becoming the city's mayor. He said Millirons' four, consecutive terms as mayor will expire on Dec. 31, 2011.
"If he resigns before the end of December this year, we would have to have a special election," Eady said. "Any time after Feb. 1, the mayor and council could make an appointment ... That is according to our charter. We would fill his seat with the mayor pro tem[pore], Mason Barfield, and we would appoint a person to fill Mason's seat, until the election rolls around."
Eady said the city's current mayor pro tempore is Councilman Bob Huie and that the position will rotate to Barfield at the beginning of the next calendar year. He said if Millirons steps down after February, the city council would have the ability to nominate and appoint any Morrow resident, who is agreed upon by a vote of the council.
Advanced age and health issues have had a major impact on the Morrow City Council over the past year. In March, the city had a special election to replace former Councilman Charles Sorrow, who stepped down earlier this year due to complications related to Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Eady said that doctors have recommended that Millirons take time to recuperate.
"He [Millirons] can walk with the aid of a walker, but his doctors don't feel that he is progressing at the rate he should be," Eady said. "He has been a fixture here for decades. It will be the end of an era for the City of Morrow," if Millirons steps down, he said.
In another action on Tuesday, the city council failed to pass a new ethics ordinance, which would govern the conduct of city council members, city employees, as well as the city's board appointees.
According to Eady, Councilman Virlyn Slaton was absent at Tuesday's meeting, due to back surgery. The council voted 2-1 on the new ordinance, with Councilman John Lampl opposed. Items approved by the city council require the affirmative vote of at least three members, according to the city's charter.
Lampl said the proposed ethics ordinance is "vague," and that its definitions needed to be "tightened up," in order to avoid situations that place an unfair burden of proof on the accused. "I think we need a stronger one [ethics ordinance] than what we have," he said.
"[However,] it seems to go a lot further than your typical ethics ordinance. There is vagueness in it. There is subjectivity in it. It talks about hurting people's feelings. What hurts your feelings might not hurt mine. It uses the word 'humiliate.' That word is very loose. I want it to be tightened up so that all of our boards can be confident that if they obey the golden rule, they won't be caught up in something that has to do with personalities."
The proposed ordinance calls for the establishment of a Board of Ethics to hear individual violations, and those found guilty of violating the rules could face censure, fines, or removal from office.
In April, conflict surfaced between Lampl and Millirons, after Lampl publicly accused Millirons of using his office for private gain. Millirons countered that Lampl was attempting to sully his reputation in a bid to become the city's next mayor.
Lampl declined to speculate on Thursday whether he would run for mayor, if Millirons steps down.
"I will stay completely out of that," he said. "It wouldn't be appropriate at this time. In the long term, I wish him [Millirons] well."