Dec. 1, 2008 -- A strong marriage is usually considered a good thing for a politician, but the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., is catching flack from some city employees and council members over his close relationship with his wife.
Mayor Mark Funkhouser's wife, Gloria Squitiro, has been a constant presence in the mayor's office ever since he was elected in 2007. Squitiro ran her husband's campaign, creating catchy ads with the tagline "We want the funk." Now the outspoken Squitiro works as Funkhouser's volunteer personal assistant.
"The mayor makes every day 'bring your wife to work day,'" Kansas City Councilman Ed Ford said.
A former city employee filed a lawsuit in September accusing the mayor and his wife of making racist remarks, using the term "mammy" and creating a hostile work environment. Since then, the city council passed a law banning elected officials from having family members volunteering in their offices.
A Long Island, N.Y., native, Squirito admitted she is not as "reserved" as people in Kansas City but denied she'd made any racist remarks.
"I have never used a racial slur," Squirito said today on "Good Morning America." "My parents were Italians. They grew up in the 1920s in New York City when there was a real hate for Italians going on then. I was not raised to use derogatory words. If I would ever have uttered a racial word in my house, my mother would have smacked me so hard my teeth would have rattled."
Funkhouser said that the council's complaints about his wife are a diversion to slow his political agenda and argues that Squirito makes him a more effective mayor. In turn, he is suing the city to allow her back into the office as a volunteer.
"They think they can pass a law that determines who can and cannot come and talk to me in my office. I don't think it's legal. I don't think it's constitutional," Funkhouser said.
Nepotism or Sign of the Times?
Funkhouser also said that Squirito, who is a home-birthing coach, is "working with me all the time, whether we happen to be at City Hall or not."
Critics see it differently and accuse the mayor of nepotism.
"The problem is whenever you have to supervise a family member, a loved one or your wife, you can't be objective," Ford said.
Funkhauser and Squirito said it's time for Kansas City to catch up with the political times.
"We feel like most political spouses do what I do. They just tend to keep it hidden, and we're not willing to compromise our honesty to the people of Kansas City to do it that way," Squirito told "GMA."
"I think we're coming out of the closet political-wise," she continued. "Thank God for Hillary [Clinton]. She paved the way for Michelle [Obama] and we're not going to have to sit there and worry about where Michelle sits during the day because of Hillary."