Kansas City, Mo. City officials agreed Thursday to pay a former mayoral aide $550,000 to settle a lawsuit over comments made by the mayor’s wife, who has faced criticism for her role in her husband’s administration.
The Kansas City Council voted 7-3 to approve the settlement with former aide Ruth Bates, the day before jury selection was scheduled to begin in the trial over her lawsuit against the city and Mayor Mark Funkhouser. Attorneys said they will present the settlement to the judge today.
Funkhouser’s wife, Gloria Squitiro, volunteered nearly full time in his office and came under fire for her brash personality and control of the mayor’s agenda.
Bates’ lawsuit claimed that Squitiro made racist and sexual comments to her. It also claimed Bates, who is black, was paid less than other people in comparable positions because of her race and gender.
Funkhouser, the city and Squitiro have denied Bates’ allegations. Squitiro was no longer part of the lawsuit because her insurance company settled with Bates last year for $45,000.
Bates had been seeking $25,000 on each of three counts, plus punitive damages.
Funkhouser told reporters he was disappointed with the outcome.
“I was ready to go to trial. I believe I would have been vindicated. But there is a silver lining: I’ve been focusing on my initiatives and trying to move forward, and now we can put this behind us.”
Lynne Bratcher, Bates’ attorney, said Bates “has shown a lot of courage and fortitude going through this, and I’m glad it has come out positively for her.”
Galen Beaufort, attorney for the city, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Among other things, Bates had claimed that Squitiro called her “mammy” at the office and that it was intended as a racial slur. Squitiro has said it was not a slur and that she routinely tacks on a “y” to names and meant it as in “yes, ma’am-y.”
Bates, who screened and interviewed candidates for city boards and commissions, left City Hall in May 2008, after turning down a reassignment to another department. She filed her lawsuit the next month.
Bates’ allegations prompted the City Council to pass an ordinance banning family members from volunteering in City Hall.