KC mayor fighting volunteer ordinance

Friday, November 7, 2008 | 11:37 a.m. CST; updated 1:49 p.m. CST, Friday, November 7, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Mayor Mark Funkhouser filed a lawsuit Friday over a new ordinance that prohibits his wife from volunteering full time in his office.

The lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of Funkhouser; his wife, Gloria Squitiro; and their daughter, Tara Squitiro.

The ordinance says family members of elected officials can volunteer only infrequently in the officials' offices. It also outlines codes of conduct, clothing and other requirements for volunteers.

The lawsuit asks that the court "at a minimum" invalidate the section of the ordinance aimed specifically at family members of elected officials.

The mayor says the ordinance is invalid under the state constitution and the city charter and interferes with his ability to run his office as he wants.

"I'm taking this action to protect the integrity of the Office of Mayor," Funkhouser said in a written statement. "I need to have the authority to run my office as I see fit in order to achieve the outcomes I intend to accomplish for the residents of Kansas City."

City Attorney Galen Beaufort was not immediately available for comment Friday.

The council passed the ordinance in September, saying it was tired of distractions Squitiro had caused while spending 20 to 30 hours a week in the office, performing duties such as constituent correspondence and facilitating communication between Funkhouser and his staff.

Their daughter, Tara, has worked as an unpaid summer intern in the mayor's office and "may wish to do so again," the lawsuit said.

The ordinance was in part a reaction to a lawsuit filed by a former mayoral staffer who alleges that Gloria Squitiro created a hostile workplace, partly by making racially sensitive and sexually explicit comments. Squitiro has denied the allegations.

Funkhouser had vetoed the ordinance — the first mayoral veto in modern Kansas City history — but the council voted 12-1 to override him. Since the override, Funkhouser has begun holding some staff meetings at this home.

The lawsuit claims that, because the ordinance includes a penalty of up to six months in prison and a $500 fine, Funkhouser has been "forced to work with his wife and staff" at his home.

In the lawsuit, the Funkhousers' lawyer, Doug Carter, argues that the ordinance undermines the mayor's ability to consult with whomever he wants and infringes on his authority to manage his own office.

He also argues that the ordinance does not define important terms, such as what constitutes a volunteer, the type of services involved, how frequently the volunteer works, and even what constitutes an "office."

The lawsuit also asks that the court find the ordinance does not cover spouses, but only blood relatives.

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