It's unfortunate, but the resignation of Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison may ultimately be viewed as the most important accomplishment of his brief tenure.
Less than a week after he acknowledged an extramarital affair with a former employee of his in the Johnson County District Attorney's office, Morrison announced Friday that he would step down and allow Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to name his replacement.
It seemed that Morrison had little choice. Regardless of what offenses eventually were proved, the allegations of sexual harassment and professional misconduct made by his former lover would have derailed the rest of Morrison's term. He was under attack from both Republicans and Democrats. The chairman of the Kansas Republican Party issued a statement on Morrison's resignation 15 minutes before the
3 p.m. press conference even started. Phill Kline who Morrison replaced as attorney general and who replaced Morrison as Johnson County district attorney, already had approval to hire a special prosecutor reportedly to look into the Morrison case.
The Democrats who adopted Morrison when he switched parties to run against Kline in 2005 were careful not to declare him guilty, but they didn't hesitate to say he should step down if any of the more serious charges against him were proven.
Morrison's resignation may take some of the heat off, but at least some of the investigations into his professional and personal conducts almost certainly will proceed. The good news for Morrison's family is that those investigations likely will continue in a somewhat dimmer spotlight than if he had continued in office. This tawdry situation had to take a terrible toll on Morrison's wife and children. Considering his admitted affair, he owed it to his family to try to mitigate their pain.
Morrison certainly isn't the first public figure to be taken down by personal indiscretions. It's hard to imagine how someone could exercise such poor judgment in his personal life while asking financial backers and Kansas voters to support his election as the state's top law enforcement officer. To think he could get away with such behavior reveals an arrogance that is hard to understand.
In his press conference Friday, Morrison said, "I have held others accountable for their actions, and now I must be held accountable for my mistakes. Many people feel betrayed by my actions, and they have every right to feel that way."
It's unfortunate Morrison didn't come to that conclusion two years ago before that betrayal of his family, his supporters and the people of Kansas took place.