Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhauser and his wife, Gloria Squitiro, are in the midst of a maelstrom in Kansas City over her (full-time) volunteer work in the mayoral office. Squitiro, who ran her husband's campaign after they canned his campaign managers, was the reason behind a recent anti-nepotism ordinance that barred her from working for her husband, who has since taken up working from home. Is Squitiro taking all this heat because she's a strong woman? Well, much of the messaging is sexist, but the reasons she should be ousted are getting lost in the crossfire.
When we first saw this story, we thought to ourselves, oh, poor woman. For the crime of volunteering to work in her husband's office, for the audacity to think a mere birthing coach might have political or policy insights, she's been pilloried as a henpecking wife.
But Squitiro quickly gained a reputation as a controlling influence on the mayor and a divisive and meddlesome figure at City Hall. Funkhouser's chief of staff, Ed Wolf, resigned earlier this fall, complaining, "It was kind of like having your mother-in-law go along on your honeymoon."
It goes on and on. From City Council members questioning his ability to govern without her input to others implying that he's somehow less of a man because he regularly consults his wife, much of the criticism of Funkhauser and Squitiro seemingly revolves around out-dated stereotypes of traditional gender roles.
Another [reader] wrote recently: "He should be removed from office immediately so he can spend all of his time with his wife without his job getting in the way. Separation anxiety problem solved."
Funkhauser said he and his wife are a political team. "The idea that I'm this infantile guy who's tied to his wife's apron strings and has to have her right there holding his hand — anybody who knows me knows that's silly," he said.
Which it may well be — one of Funkhauser's biggest critics said people were "surprised" that Squitiro was around the mayor's office so much.
But, the problem is where the controversy over Funkhauser's tenure — and Squitiro's participation — in the mayor's office started.
Squitiro ran her husband's campaign for mayor, and after he got elected last year, she took a desk near his office in City Hall.
That arrangement came to end soon after a former mayoral aide filed a lawsuit last summer in which she accused Squitiro of making lewd comments around the office and calling the aide, a black woman, "Mammy."
Uh, what? Suddenly, it seems slightly more appropriate that Squitiro stay away from the mayor's office, if only to get some sexual harassment and diversity training. But maybe it's all a big lie by a disgruntled former employee? Nope.
As for the allegations in the lawsuit, the couple's lawyers said that Squitiro routinely gave affectionate nicknames to staffers and that the word "Mammy" came from Squitiro's adding an "e" sound to the word "Ma'am." In a sworn statement, Squitiro acknowledged making sexual references but insisted they were jokes.
Oh, ok, as long as calling an employee by a racist term was a joke, as was sexual harassment — that totally makes it all okay.
The problem is that rather than attacking Squitiro for her racist statements or standing up for the woman who was sexually harassed by her, the dudes around Funkhauser are running around spouting off sexist crap, thereby garnering sympathy for a woman who obviously doesn't deserve it. The way to criticize Funkhauser and Squitiro is not to call her someone's mother-in-law or suggest that he's "henpecked", it's to say the following.
Were Gloria Squitiro any other city employee, her actions in the case of the aide would be considered completely unacceptable and she would have been fired. That Funkhauser has not condemned his wife's actions, let alone sought to bypass a city ordinance by continuing to rely on her counsel, shows that he either considers those actions acceptable or is unwilling to treat his wife like any other city employee, which is unacceptable nepotism.
Look how easy that was!