A few weeks ago we were approached by insiders within the city. The story they told us was not only eye-opening, but may have a dramatic impact on the future of Kansas City politics. We've been holding off reporting the information they provided to protect them from retribution. But since our requests for comments from the council members involved have gone unreturned we have no choice but to release what we have learned.
Today the city council votes on an ordinance that would ban Mayor Funkhouser's wife from volunteering in his office. The sponsors of this ordinance, which includes Jan Marcason and eight other members (we'll call them the Jan Marcason Nine), was reportedly in response to the Mayor's refusal to ask his wife to leave her volunteer position within his office after having been the subject of a lawsuit brought on the city. As you will soon see, this reasoning couldn't be further from the truth.
To understand what really is going on inside the city government's split you have to go back to 2007 when Mark Funkhouser upset Mayor Pro-Tem Alvin Brooks in the Mayoral election. You see, when Funkhouser came out on top, the career politicians in this town suddenly became very afraid.
They were afraid that if Mark Funkhouser found success as the KC's mayor, his example may encourage other private sector leaders to step forward and perform their civic duties and that simply doesn't coincide with their political aspirations.
It didn't take long before they found something to attack the Mayor on. Francis Semler, member of the pro-border security group the Minutemen Civil Defense Corp, had just been appointed by the Mayor to the city's parks board. Immediately, the mayor's political rivals jumped on this as an opportunity to attack his judgement. What they didn't count on was the mayor standing up to them and the citizens rallying behind him.
The attacks from the Jan Marcason Nine and the radical left continued for months. Finally, seventy-five year old Francis Semler resigned under the pressure. The political elite in this city scored their first victory, but their attacks only strengthened the citizens' belief in Mark Funkhouser's leadership.
Funkhouser quickly identified a position within the city that was being severely mismanaged, the city manager. The mayor contacted City Manager Wayne Cauthen and informed him he would not be renewing his contract, as the city charter states is the Mayor's right to do.
The city manager position within a city government is typically a job given to someone with management skills from the private sector, unfortunately in this case Wayne Cauthen was just the opposite. He's a career politician. As such, when he took office he immediately began appointing other unqualified, political cronies to key positions with in the city government. Funkhouser recognized this and sought to correct the problem.
The Jan Marcason Nine knew that if Funkhouser was able to bring in another private sector individual and together they were able to fix many of the problems within the city manager's office, that have led directly to the city's infrastructure and crime problems, it would not bode well for their political futures. Plus, the attacks came with the added benefit of protecting one of their own.
Largely because of local media pressure and to avoid a lengthy court battle, the Mayor decided to strike a deal with the council, that despite his better judgement, would allow Wayne Cauthen to stay. Another victory for the KC political elite.
But some how the mayor was still seeing impressive approval ratings from the citizens. About the same time the Jan Marcason Nine was working to encourage a staffer in the mayor's office to level ridiculous allegations of racism from the Mayor's wife, Gloria Squitiro. "Mammygate," is what they would later call it.
The allegations were quickly dismissed by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as totally unfounded, but they did leave the possibility for a lawsuit open. At this point the Mayor offered the so-called "victim" of "Mammygate" a transfer to the city's water department, a better, higher paying position. She chose to quit instead, knowing she could claim he was trying to get rid of her as payback.
The Jan Marcason Nine then worked to put her in touch with a lawyer who would eventually bring a lawsuit on her behalf against the city. A lawsuit that would likely fail, but one which they could agree to settle to score another victory against the Mayor. They also hoped this lawsuit would force the Mayor to boot his wife out, which would negatively impact the public's opinion of him for not standing up to those lying about his wife.
When the lawsuit didn't get Funkhouser to give in, they began drafting the new ordinance to try and force him to move his wife out of the office. Unfortunately, for Funkhouser he indicated early on he would not adhere to the ordinance if it did pass, which will only encourage the Jan Marcason Nine to pass it and force him to act, which will only make him look that much worse.
In the end, the council's feud with Funkhouser isn't about racism, it's not about effective leadership, it's about good ole' boy politics. Funkhouser's just now one of them and they won't allow him to succeed.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The accounts in this posting are second hand and unconfirmed. They were told to us by two individuals within city government. Their accounts of what has and is taking place were so similar we had to take them seriously. We attempted to reach Jan Marcason and the other eight council members for comment but our calls were not returned. Given the council's decision to move forward with their efforts to exploit their positions for a personal and political vendetta we felt we had no other choice but to relay the inside story we'd been told.