Kansas City mayor, wife deny allegations of harassment

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | 4:51 p.m. CST; updated 6:43 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 2, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Mayor Mark Funkhouser and his wife, Gloria Squitiro, said they are the victims — not a former mayoral staffer who sued them for racial and sexual discrimination.

The couple, in separate depositions, denied allegations that they subjected Ruth Bates to discrimination, harassment and retaliation during the 10 months she worked in the mayor's office.

"I do feel this minute sitting here today as if I were the aggrieved party," Funkhouser testified in his deposition, which was released Monday. "I feel like I have had my name ... drug through the mud over something that did not occur."

Squitiro testified that she jokingly used innocent sexual innuendo in the mayor's office on occasion, but she denied making any racial or sexual slurs.

The depositions are part of ongoing proceedings related to Bates' lawsuit, which was filed in June.

Bates, who is black, alleged that Squitiro called her "Mammy." Squitiro was volunteering in the mayor's office at the time, but the City Council has since passed an ordinance that keeps her and other family members of elected officials from being regular city-office volunteers.

Squitiro said she wasn't making a racial remark to Bates. She said she was using the term "Ma'am" with the "e'' sound added at the end — as with "Yes, siree" or "Okey dokey."

"But it had no racial connotations, from my lips, my mind, my heart, my soul," she said.

Funkhouser testified that he has never heard his wife use a racial slur.

"I have been as close to Gloria as it is possible for two humans to be with each other for more than 30 years," he said. "I have never ever heard my wife use a racial slur in all that time, not once."

Funkhouser said he thought that he and Bates had a close friendship. He and Squitiro said they don't understand why Bates didn't bring her concerns to their attention.

"She went to other people with her tears," Squitiro said. "She never once came to me with those tears."

If Bates would have come to her about feeling insulted, Squitiro said she would have apologized.

But Bates filed a discrimination complaint instead, and city attorneys told Squitiro not to say anything.

Funkhouser, Squitiro and the city were named as defendants in Bates' lawsuit. The homeowners' insurance company for Squitiro and Funkhouser has agreed to settle the claim against Squitiro for $45,000, but the case continues against the mayor and city.

Bates, who handled citizen applications for volunteer boards and commissions, also said she was paid less than her peers because of her race and gender. Funkhouser said Bates took the position with a salary of $31,000 and was actually paid $36,000.

Funkhouser said he sought to have Bates removed from the job when it became apparent that she no longer supported him. He said Bates had cartoons around her working space and was mocking him.

He said he was "pretty sure that she did not want me to succeed as mayor, and I did not want to have somebody working in my office who did not want me to succeed."

Funkhouser's attorney, Jim Wirken, pointed out in the mayor's deposition that Bates was offered another position with the same pay and benefits in the city's water department. Wirken said Bates turned the job down.

Bates has not been offered another position and it's unclear whether she would want another job with the citysaid Bates' attorney, Lynne Bratcher.

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