Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bad Legal Advice, or Decent Political Advice?

I've been genuinely puzzling over the Marcason meltdown and the weirdness surrounding the volunteer ordinance being pushed by the Kansas City Council. Something has been "off" about the whole affair. Most of the potential explanations go part-way toward explaining the situation, but come up short or presenting a satisfactory picture.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Jan Marcason. She's not a rude person, in normal circumstances, but the video shows her turning her back on good citizens and ignoring them in favor of a back room. (Update: The video didn't catch the walkouts, as the camera stays focused on the speaker.) She's not someone who would, in normal circumstances, threaten a fellow council member, but Sharon Sanders Brooks blew the whistle on a hasty, whispered threat. She's not a sneaky person, in normal circumstances, but suddenly we see her sneaking a hidden ordinance into the committee so that she could ramrod it through without giving the public an opportunity to comment. She's not a metaphorical backroom politician, in normal circumstances, but the video shows her, quite literally, resorting to the literal backroom for a place to play politics outside the public eye.

Clearly, these are not normal times. I have way too much respect for Jan Marcason and most of those who supported her to believe that I am seeing the complete picture. Something made Marcason melt down, and I refuse to believe that it was simply an ego-driven, petulant reaction to people refusing to accept her ordinance on her schedule. Something else is going on. For Jan Marcason to threaten Sanders Brooks with a refusal to support projects in the urban core, it had to be something pretty major.

It could be something related to the Bates lawsuit. Clearly, the ordinance does not directly impact the Bates litigation, so the arguments about "protecting the city from liability" don't really add up. That argument also fails in view of the fact that Marcason's last backroom draft of the ordinance excludes 99.9% of the volunteers used by the city.

Furthermore, the lawsuit simply does justify such extraordinary reaction. Even it it went to trial, and a jury found that every claim of the plaintiff was true and unmitigated by other factors, financial damages in this case are difficult to demonstrate, and punitive damages are an unlikely prospect. Certainly, the case was unlikely to ever cost the city anything near the millions of dollars that Marcason had been willing to spend on consultants to provide countless hours of expensive training for thousands of volunteers.

One alternative method for the ordinance to become very much related to the Bates litigation, though, would be if it was somehow tied to a proposed settlement agreement. This does make a modicum of sense. Ms. Bates and Ms. Squitiro were, all agree, former friends, and it is not hard to imagine that a settlement of a case arising from a broken friendship would include an attempt to "settle the score" beyond mere money. This explanation also would encompass the near panic level of urgency that Marcason brought to the ordinance - most settlement proposals include an expiration date.

It's speculation on my part, but it's the only thing that explains the meltdown, the urgency and the willingness of Marcason to toss out every detail of the ordinance until it focuses exclusively on one person. All that other nonsense about trying to create broad volunteer guidelines in line with other organizations - methinks someone was making that up, and regrets spinning that line of malarkey in hindsight.

But, still, even if it is a part of a settlement agreement, it doesn't make a whole lot of legal sense. As described above, the Bates case, even on its best day, wouldn't justify the expense that Marcason was proposing to spend on consultants and criminal records checks. A quick look on Casenet shows that there are almost 800 cases of various types pending in Jackson County with "City of Kansas City" included in the parties. It would be bad legal advice, indeed, to agree to pass ordinances every time someone sues the city.

But legal advice is different from political advice. It would be a mistake to confuse good political advice with bad legal advice.

Kicking Gloria out of City Hall makes political sense for certain members of the council. It would be a way of undermining the Mayor, reaching into his office and making staff decisions for him. It would deprive him of his most trusted and important advisor. It would even be a bit of an embarrassment for him, and perhaps even be something that a councilmember with Mayoral ambitions would like to use during the next race. A settlement of the suit would also prevent a public airing of any defenses or explanations by Ms. Squitiro, such that only one side of the story would ever gain the public's attention - again, weakening a Mayor who is out to change the way things are done in our City.

It's even possible that the councilmembers believe they would gain the appreciation of a certain blogger, and get favorable treatment in the next election cycle.

Clearly, the Kansas City public does not know what is going on with this ordinance. Clearly, there is more afoot than simply trying to come up with a good volunteer policy, and we are being kept in the dark.

What happened in that back room? Until someone comes forward and explains it, concerned Kansas Citians are forced to speculate.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you think Beth's role is in all of this?

9/07/2008 11:15 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I imagine that in this matter, as in others, she is doing her best to represent what she believes is Kansas City's best interest.

9/07/2008 11:24 AM  
Anonymous PlazaJen said...

Removing Gloria from City Hall does :not: deprive the mayor of her wisdom, guidance and advice. She is not an elected official, and the doggedness to which Funkhouser has refused to bend on this is alarming to the citizens of Kansas City. When you add to that his post about how EVERYTHING his administration has done since taking office is a direct result of her, and her guidance deemed necessary, even mandatory? Well, gee, makes you wonder how the man can even put his pants on in the morning. Which is alarming. Most of us married folks make big decisions jointly. Most of us talk it over with our spouse/s.o./trusted friends and family. But to be rendered incapacitated if she is removed from City Hall? Come on. It's disheartening. It's bizarre. It's pretty much unheard of.
I've said it before - I would think if I met Gloria and talked to her, we'd have very similar views on many political things. I appreciate the fact she supports her husband. But it is without malice (yet a fair amount of irritation) I would posit she can not stay in City Hall. The lawsuit alone would have put any employee on administrative leave, if not an outright dismissal. I'm tired of this, and if you think there's a chance of him winning a re-election - regardless of who's running, or what they're saying - well, Dan, I admire your dedication. But even Sisyphus needs a rest.

9/07/2008 1:24 PM  
Anonymous TheDude said...

Have you ever thought that it might be in Kansas City's best interest to settle this and not have it come out in a highly public trial what all Gloria has done?

Can you imagine Joe Miller on the stand. "Mr. Miller, have you ever heard Ms. Gloria say 'I bed you would like a good nine inches in you'?" , or hearing Gloria explain on the stand that she just adds an "-eee" to everyones name? Or "Mr. Miller, have you ever Gloria to refer to Bates as the 'Token African-American'?"

Maybe it is Jan that has the cities best interest at heart. If this goes to trial and turns out to be true, what are the odds of national boycotts against KC? What are the odds of a Jessie Jackson coming in and marching?

Of course you put down La Raza when they complained about Semler. I believe you called their boycott, "black mail".

If this goes to trial and the accusations prove true, this could grow into much more than a payout to Ms. Bates.

9/07/2008 1:26 PM  
Anonymous inafunkaboutthefunk said...

Anecdoatal evidence indicates that Ms. Bates wants a trial to air out her view of what is going on in the Myor's Office and how she and perhaps others were mistreated. Even her most bigoted enemies haven't suggested otherwise.

9/07/2008 1:38 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Inafunk -

Is it bigoted to suggest that settlement discussions are occurring?

9/07/2008 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When is Gloria taking delivery on wisdom?

Keep swimming Dan and look out for those deck chairs as they float by.

9/07/2008 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Furthermore, the lawsuit simply does justify such extraordinary reaction. Even it it went to trial, and a jury found that every claim of the plaintiff was true

Dan, you have truly drunk from the cool aid.

If even half of the claims are true, then the Mayor and his wife should publicly apologize to the city, hang their heads in shame and resign from office.

It is interesting to watch your position on this evolve. It has gone from, she didn't do it, to lets see what the court says, to others did worse, to even if you she did do it, its not that bad.

9/07/2008 6:47 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous - You're simply lying. How would I be in a position to know everything said between the two of them, and, thus, how could I claim to know? I never did. You made that up. You lied.

Similarly, where have I argued that others did worse, or that it's not that bad? You're making stuff up, and I'm not going to sit back and allow you to lie.

Why is it that people prefer to make up lies and claim that others are drinking "cool aid" (sic), but nobody can explain or even discuss why Marcason had her meltdown?

9/07/2008 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what meltdown?

9/07/2008 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similarly, where have I argued that others did worse, or that it's not that bad? You're making stuff up, and I'm not going to sit back and allow you to lie.

I am not lying and I am not making stuff up. Here are your own words:
1. "do you honestly believe that Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton did not get people fired? "

2. "Do you think that Melanie Blunt doesn't boss people around and behave inappropriately? "

3. "Do you honestly think that a CEO's spouse could not "boss people around" in the executive suite?"

9/07/2008 10:02 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Really? You're trying to justify your lies with lame misquotations? Shame on you.

Those comments were addressed specifically to XO's argument that "No one, in any other government or corporate office would be allowed to behave this way." I was demonstrating that, in fact, people behave in the ways alleged all the time - I was not, in any way, saying that it is okay to behave that way. I proved XO wrong, but did not claim that it is not bad to behave in those manners.

If XO claimed that no football player ever engaged in cheap shots, and I cited several instances where, in fact, they had, would that be the same as arguing that football cheap shots are not so bad?

There is a world of difference between proving XO wrong and demonstrating that other people have engaged in bad behavior, and arguing that such behavior is not bad.

I hope you're bright enough to realize that, and honest enough to admit you made a mistake.

On top of that, do you admit you lied when you claimd that I said it never happened?

9/07/2008 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are correct about the "never happened part." I was wrong about that.

9/07/2008 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan said: "Kicking Gloria out of City Hall makes political sense for certain members of the council..."

Yes, the elected ones.

9/07/2008 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was right about the rest of it, too. I disagree with Dan about half the time, but the guy never lies, and he proved you wrong. Go away.

9/07/2008 10:40 PM  
Blogger Capt. Geoffrey Spaulding said...

I thought XO didn't like sports Dan?

Heh- damn how I wish this barely-an-issue would go away so we could focus on more immediate concerns like billions for new sewers and airport.

9/08/2008 10:43 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

A settlement of the suit would also prevent a public airing of any defenses or explanations by Ms. Squitiro, such that only one side of the story would ever gain the public's attention - again, weakening a Mayor who is out to change the way things are done in our City.

Settling a case while denying liability is standard enough. It's not like settlement requires Squitiro to say "I did it! I suck!" Plaintiff's lawyer issues a statement claiming favorable resolution and justice served. Defense attorneys issue statements claiming that the case was settled in the best interests of the city with the intention of moving forward.

So, no, it doesn't automatically "prevent" a public airing. What would prevent a public airing is frackin common sense - you put the story behind you and stop giving it air.

And that's just in general. Given the specifics of this case, why on earth should we believe that the Mayor and his wife will look better once they've had the opportunity to fully air their side of the story? Seriously? The taxpayers paid Jim Wirken money to tell the press that he can't see how anyone would think that the Mayor giving his wife a foot rub in the office would create a hostile work environment?! Shut these people up for their own good.

As for the last part, which seems to feed into the mindset that the only reason people complain about Squitiro is to weaken the Mayor, I just don't see it that way. There are many well-meaning people who think Squitiro is a problem and, this is the key part, don't believe that not having her in the Mayor's office would "weaken" the Mayor. There are many well-meaning people who voted for the Mayor believing he was capable of doing this job on his own. Those people don't buy the Mayor's claim that he can't do it without his wife.

And it's that claim, that Gloria is the sine qua non of progress, that weakens the Mayor. It's his making support for Gloria the lithmus test of supporting "a city that works" that weakens him by needlessly alienating allies. It's his inability to recognize his own strengths and his wife's flaws that weakens him. He's doing it to himself.

9/08/2008 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Jayhoax said...

"It would deprive him of his most trusted and important advisor. "

Oh, whatever. Like he would never talk to Gloria if this ordinance passed....

Good grief, you're turning Gloria into Linus' blue security blanket....

"It's even possible that the councilmembers believe they would gain the appreciation of a certain blogger,"

Tony's really gotten into your head on this, hasn't he??

9/08/2008 8:45 PM  
Anonymous try2Bobjective said...

Dan, explain this pls:

"Kicking Gloria out of City Hall makes political sense for certain members of the council. It would be a way of undermining the Mayor, reaching into his office and making staff decisions for him."

So, anything that affects the mayor's wife is making "staff decisions" for the mayor's office.

That's what some poeple call nepotism, Dan.

And you ask who the people are looking at this?

That's even more interesting, because it goes statewide by two dimensions, if you get my drift.

And by the way, do you really have discussions with the mayor and his wife on these issues, or are you engaged in a long distance labor of love?

9/08/2008 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Herder of Cats said...

Try2 I remember you. You are part of the Orange Revolution that got us to this point. I doubt you even have locks on your doors. You are pond scum. No soup for you.

9/08/2008 10:57 PM  
Anonymous try2Bobjective said...


No, herder. You are intentionally trying to provoke me. I have you figured out.

You have me confused with somebody else.

If you recall, during the mayoral primary I was the one who would put a three-sentence statement out there on the old buzz blog to antagonize Joe Miller who would respond with a series of 8,000-word, cut and paste responses from Funk's past audits or something just as intelligible.

My two favorite groups to correspond with were the Riederer morons, and, Joe Miller, the Funkhouser moron.

Anyways, sheepherder, what you said hurt.

And I deserve soup.

9/08/2008 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Bill Drummond, of the Crossroads said...

To Dan, and the rational posters here:
I also think Marcasson has been steered into this situation that now has got a lot stickier than she, Gottstein, or the other "get-Gloria-and-railroad-her-out-quick" posse thought would happen.

I note that there are several desperate "self-interested" developer interests in the Crossroads;
( I mean: Suzie Arron- "Past and Perpetual President for life", Shaul Jolle- "I will sell you a condo...or else", the Accardos-"Our Luxury highrise condo needs more TIF", Vince Dasta " I bide my time, until no one is watching", and the now-desperate realty shills who are hoping a city bus will run over Mayor Funkhouser ). I do think that these people are leaning on Jan, and Beth to "get" Funkhouser.

To show cause, I note that a ugly "border dispute" with the Westside neighborhood- ( which is entirely of the making of the above-mentioned "self-interested developers" ), has embroiled the Funkhousers on the side of the Westside.

To explain to those not familiar with the situation:
( like Tony- who is as shallow as he is crude ). The "leaders" of the Crossroads, ( who, 4 years ago, hijacked a neighborhood association of artists- and made an unrestrained development welcome mat out of the Crossroads area ), have declared that the, ( highly develop-able ), area between Broadway, and I-35 highway, from Truman Rd. to the railway tracks, to be in the "Crossroads". They have repeated this lie for 7 years now- and have sold, rented, and received development incentives, ( $$$ ), on properties in this "disputed zone".

The Westside neighborhood has always administrated this area, has been acknowledged as the neighborhood in force in this area, and has the original 10- year-old FOCUS neighborhood assessment for this area. The Westsiders just want to be left alone, and do not want the "self-interested" developers to hold sway in THEIR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD.
I support the Westside, and I can tell you that the developers mentioned above don't like the Funkhousers for also supporting the Westside's interests.

This would, in the larger context of some council people out to "get" Gloria, shed light on why "self- interested" developers may be offering money /support to any council people who will work against the Funkhousers.

9/09/2008 1:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't people scream nepotism when the first lady of the United States takes charge of an issue in her husband's administration, a la Laura Bush and literacy?

9/09/2008 7:50 AM  
Anonymous writingonthewall said...

Of course there are many motives her. Developers hate Funhouser and want him gone. Council members world becomes smaller not larger and the voices in their head are people with vested interests. They begin to think everyone feels a certain way because everyone they now communicate with does. This is a hill to die on for Funkhouser because if he negotiates away his wife then they have truly defeated him in everyone's eyes. This is an all out personal attack for control and power.

There are no less than 4 council members running for Mayor right now and all they have to do is convince their friends on the council to go with them. They are not looking down the road to what comes next. Once they get Funkhouser they have to get each other one by one. It won't stop.

Look at the last election. Nace was out first and the others went after her. Then Fairfield got some steam and there was a target on his back, next comes Brooks and the attention turned to him. Glover and Eddy were less threats but they were not given much room to get things done either. Riley went on point as attack dog for Brooks as did Nash.

What was the lesson here? In the end the outsider won and they all walked away tarnished from the battle. This council is doing nothing more than paving the way for a non council member to step in and be the next Mayor. That is called cutting off your nose to spite your face. I would not vote for any current council member for Mayor. They are too petty and have failed to rise above this special interest influence and self interest to act in the best interest of the city. They are but B players in a rediculous game orchestrated by developers and old politicos.

9/09/2008 8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

writing on the wall makes some excellent points. I would add that this council seems to lack loyalty to anyone. Not that I like the political games but a key piece is that the Mayor's committee chairs are supposed to be his leadership and solid teammates. He can't find four to head committes and remain loyal for more than a week or two. What happened to Johnson so soon? Barnes people stuck with her even when she lied to the major construction companies on the Sprint deal. They followed her right down the path to huge debts for the city without as much as a public whimper. It is not because they liked her as much as she browbeat them down using her development friends and big contributors to control them. Yes, the Star followed her too compliments of the smart TIF she gave them early on which meant she could hang that over their head for the next several years. "Gripe about one of my TIF's? I'll remind the public you got one too." Brilliant! Barnes moved people around on Committees and the others who were ego challenged got the message. Barnes even put a slate together to defeat those who wouldn't fall in line during her reelection campaign and her entire slate was defeated by the public because they will not allow politics to rule their choices. Learn from the last council and wake up! Those developers may fill your coffers but they can't elect you in the end. Watch Funkhouser put a slate together and defeat the entire council with his Orange Revolution who view this as a gauntlet thrown down.

9/09/2008 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't people scream nepotism when the first lady of the United States takes charge of an issue in her husband's administration

One word: Travelgate

9/09/2008 12:09 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...


9/11/2008 4:08 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

What will you call them, Dan?

The "Twirpy Twelve"?

The twelve Twits of KC"?

The "Twelve Elves of Hell"

"Shelve the Twelve"!!!

My research indicates that based upon research, the only perfect rhyme with Twelve is 'delve".

You could just call them a "bunch of assholes" and dispense with the cleverness.

9/11/2008 4:24 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...


I see. I know what you're thinking Dan.

First we had the Nasty Nine, now we have the Dirty Dozen.


9/11/2008 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole thing is sad. I think we could all use a dose of Coyote wisdom.

9/11/2008 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no wrath, or payback, like that of a woman scorned.

You ain't seen nothing yet!!!

9/12/2008 8:53 PM  
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9/16/2008 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's good legal advice and decent political advice. Decent because offending the Mayor isn't going to get you anywhere. He is a nobody do nothing one term mayor.

"It would deprive him of his most trusted and important advisor."

Isn't that a problem? We have a mayor who has bad policies a bad agenda and zero common sense. And to top it off his best advisor is his wife with no intelligence, no common sense and zero clue as to what Kansas City needs.

9/20/2008 2:33 AM  

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