By DAVID MARTIN
Superspouse Gloria Squitiro’s role in the Kansas City, Missouri, mayor’s office continues to ignite flash points. City Councilwoman Jan Marcason has introduced an ordinance, aimed at Squitiro, restricting volunteerism by family members. Mayor Mark Funkhouser has said that he would ignore the new rules if adopted, and he continues to lash at out anyone who believes that Squitiro’s role is inappropriate.
Exhibiting disturbing signs of paranoia, Funkhouser said this week that The Kansas City Star has a “vendetta” against him. Funkhouser also felt the need to drag other couples into the fray. Speaking to reporters, he mentioned the marriage of Star editor-turned-publisher Mark Zieman and columnist Rhonda Chriss Lokeman.
In addition to being kinda classless, Funkhouser failed to draw an important distinction: Meeting a romantic partner at work is different from the domestication of the mayor’s office that has taken place. Zieman and Lokeman each had been at the Star for several years before they married. Employee coupling causes difficulties, of course, but what’s the alternative? Chastity belts in the break room? (Disclosure: I married a woman I met at work.)
At the same time, the Star has surely overstated the size of the walls of separation of between Zieman and Lokeman.
Wednesday’s Star said that Zieman did not supervise Lokeman as editor. But one has to believe that editors and writers who interacted with Lokeman had it in the backs (if not fronts) of their minds that she was married man high up on the masthead.
Zieman’s assertion that Lokeman is no longer an employee of the Star is equally dubious. Lokeman joined the Creators Syndicate once Zieman became publisher. But few newspapers syndicate Lokeman’s weekly column; she remains, for all intents and purposes, a Star employee. A Google news search turns up a lone Lokeman appearance in a newspaper outside KC – The Anniston (Alabama) Star on July 23.
Creators Syndicate VP Melissa Lin tells me that Lokeman is in a handful of newspapers. “We usually don’t quote a number,” she says.
Lin called later and said that "nearly 50" papers subscribed to Lokeman's column.