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Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser faces possible recall election

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | 9:36 a.m. CDT; updated 12:42 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 26, 2009

KANSAS CITY— A group seeking to force embattled Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser out of office says it has collected enough signatures to force a recall election.

The city clerk's office opened on Memorial Day for the recall group to submit a second batch of petitions, which its organizers estimated contained about 13,000 signatures.

Earlier this month, group members submitted 7,459 valid signatures and received 10 more days to attempt to collect the required 16,950 signatures needed to force a recall election.

Opponents of Funkhouser, whose outspoken wife has been a controversial fixture in his administration, said he should be recalled because he has violated the city's volunteer ordinance and nepotism rules.

"The people of Kansas City have spoken loudly and clearly and with a very firm voice, that this mayor has to go," Harris Wilder, the group's spokesman, said Monday.

Funkhouser said he will fight and defeat any recall effort.

"If anything, I haven't fought hard enough. I haven't been aggressive enough. I'm only going to ramp it up," Funkhouser said Monday in one of several interviews with local media.

Election officials have until June 1 to verify the names to make sure they are registered voters. The issue would go before voters in August or November if enough signatures were collected.

Funkhouser has been criticized heavily since taking office in May 2007, particularly after he unknowingly appointed a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an anti-illegal immigration group, to the city parks board.

The move upset some national civil rights groups and led them to pull their conventions from the city of 450,000.

Then in November 2008, he sued the council after it enacted an ordinance that keeps his wife, Gloria Squitiro, from volunteering in his office.

Squitiro, a former birthing coach, had come under fire for her brashness and was at the center of a lawsuit that included among its claims that she called a former aide, who is black, "Mammy."

Funkhouser has said "Mammy" wasn't a racial slur because Squitiro, who is white, "puts an 'e' on virtually everything" as a form of endearment.

In depositions for the aide's harassment and discrimination lawsuit, Squitiro was described as a foul-mouthed co-worker who talked explicitly about sexual matters and twice lit dried sage to rid the office of "evil spirits."

With his wife banned from working at his city office, Funkhouser is now holding his weekly staff meetings at the downtown public library.

Kendrick Blackwood, a spokesman for the mayor, said Monday night he expected Funkhouser to address the recall effort in the State of the City address, which is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

"We are going to await the ratification of the signatures before we are going to have much to say," Blackwood said.

Funkhouser would be allowed to run in a recall election. A runoff election with the top two candidates would occur if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote.


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