Former aide says K.C. mayor's wife played major role in 'weird administration'

Saturday, December 13, 2008 | 6:23 p.m. CST; updated 7:50 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 13, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Gloria Squitiro, wife of Mayor Mark Funkhouser, was a "quintessential member" of the mayor's team, and also twice lit dried sage to rid the office of "evil spirits," according to the deposition of Funkhouser's former communications director.

Joe Miller's allegations came in a deposition for a discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by former mayoral aide Ruth Bates against the city, Funkhouser and Squitiro. The deposition was given Monday. The transcript was finalized Friday.

Miller said Squitiro first lit the sage — or smudge sticks — after Funkhouser was elected in order to "get rid of the evil spirits of the Barnes administration." He said Squitiro lit another batch of sage at the office as the communications team worked on a speech in which Funkhouser asked the city council not to ban his wife from City Hall.

"Well, I'm weird, they're weird, we're a weird administration," Miller said. "There was a certain amount of pride in the weirdness of it all."

The release of the deposition capped a week of media interviews by Miller in which he claimed that, at Funkhouser's direction, he crossed ethical lines. On Thursday, the council voted to order city investigations into whether the mayor and his staff violated state ethics and public-disclosure laws.

Funkhouser has denied those allegations and said he welcomed the investigation.

According to Miller, Squitiro also summoned the mayor's communications team to several meetings that she at times ran without the mayor being present. Miller, who quit last month, said Squitiro ran hours-long meetings both while she was serving as a full-time volunteer at City Hall and after the City Council in September effectively barred her from Funkhouser's office.

She also participated in hiring and firing decisions and played a heavy role in crafting Funkhouser's media message, Miller said.

"She was absolutely a quintessential member of the team," Miller said. "The mayor said very clearly, 'Gloria and I are one.'"

Funkhouser, however, has described his wife's position more as a personal assistant.

Councilman Ed Ford told The Kansas City Star on Friday that he thinks the Missouri attorney general's office should investigate whether Funkhouser has violated a constitutional ban on nepotism.

"It certainly warrants an investigation," Ford said. Elected officials can be removed from office for violating the state's nepotism ban. Funkhouser has said he has been very careful not to violate the ban and has followed legal advice on Squitiro's role.

Kendrick Blackwood, Funkhouser's chief of staff, told the Star on Friday that he didn't want to comment on the specifics of Miller's claims. But he said Miller was passed over for a promotion to chief of staff and that Miller has said he is writing a tell-all book.

"I do think that people who have dealt with Joe know he can be prone to exaggeration and inaccuracies," Blackwood said. "He is a storyteller."

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