I'm a little miffed that my hometown, Kansas City, waited until after I moved away to elect crazy people to run it.
Actually, the voters elected one person, Mark Funkhouser, to be mayor, but he brought along his wife Gloria Squitiro. He installed her – or she installed herself – as de facto chief of staff, on a "volunteer" basis, and things deteriorated from there, as Joe Miller writes today in Salon.com. (Miller was Funkhouser's communications director. Obviously, he's not anymore.) Most of the best details of how Squitiro acted are not especially printable here, and I recommend Miller's article to you for those, except to say that the city ultimately paid half a million dollars to settle a hostile-environment lawsuit against Squitiro.
Eventually, the city council actually passed a law intended to get the mayor's wife out of City Hall. Technically, the law precluded family members of elected officials from regularly volunteering from city offices. Specifically, though, this appeared to be aimed at problem volunteers, like, let's say, the kind whose antics cost the city half a million dollars due to a harassment lawsuit.
This led to a year-long fight. The mayor vetoed the wife-banning bill. The council unanimously overrode his veto. The mayor then sued the city, arguing the law was unconstitutional. Recently, a judge agreed, saying it was too vague and was improper "special legislation." The council then tried to "clarify" it. The mayor vetoed it again. According to the Kansas City Star, a vote to override this latest veto failed recently because at least some councilmembers decided the fight was not worth it. Councilmember Beth Gottstein "said she wanted to end the constant back-and-forth skirmishing over the role of the mayor's wife," wrote the Star, but she also "urged Funkhouser to consider why he can't seem to operate without his family at City Hall." Others said they were still worried about the "rogue volunteer" problem.
And it may continue to be a problem, since the Star also reports that Funkhouser has "all but committed" to seeking a second term in office in 2011. At the moment, it looks like that would also mean his wife would remain in her cubicle for the foreseeable future.
The reference to "Funkytown," by the way, is not something cheeseball that I came up with based on the mayor's name. According to Miller, this was the campaign's theme song. KC, which by the way was a great place to grow up, deserves better. In many ways.