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Archive for Friday, December 12, 2008

Council rejects settlement demand

December 12, 2008

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— Glum-looking City Council members emerged from a closed meeting Thursday without the “stomach to pay” a bigger settlement to a former city employee who claims Mayor Mark Funkhouser and his wife created a hostile environment in the office.

During the session at City Hall, council members rejected the $800,000 settlement that former mayoral aide Ruth Bates demanded from the city.

“The council has no stomach to pay $800,000,” City Councilman Ed Ford said following the closed session, which lasted about 20 minutes. “No one is willing to go even near that number.”

Also Thursday, the council agreed in open session to call for a city investigation into whether Funkhouser and his staff violated state ethics and open records laws.

The resolution, which Ford pushed, stemed from allegations by Joe Miller, who resigned last month as Funkhouser’s communications director. Miller has said he acted unethically at the mayor’s direction when promoting a light-rail campaign during city time and failing to fulfill a public records request about a parks board controversy.

Funkhouser, who voted for the investigation, denies any wrongdoing.

Miller’s claims came up when he was deposed this week as part of the Bates lawsuit.

Bates filed her lawsuit in June against the city, Funkhouser and his wife, Gloria Squitiro, who worked full-time as a volunteer in the mayor’s office.

The lawsuit accuses Squitiro of making lewd comments and referring to Bates, who is black, as “Mammy.” Bates also claims she was paid less than her peers because of her race and gender.

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