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The apparent conflict of interest appalled Rayford. So she spoke up. To her surprise, Runnion said he was comfortable with the arrangement because property that TWS worked on had been sold to a private developer. Later, when Rayford met with Burke, he told her that the Port Authority board had considered the role of TWS and deemed it appropriate.
Rayford put all of this in a memo, which formed the basis of a front-page Kansas City Star story on December 12. Funkhouser sent the article, which said TWS was paid at least $9.7 million, to U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips, inviting her to investigate.
Maybe the feds will care. Maybe they'll just shake their heads in amusement. But the City Council is taking the matter seriously, blustering about audits and investigations.
The problem is, it was the council that somehow managed to miss — or, worse, ignore — the Port Authority's mess until it showed up in the paper. And it was the council that, just a few months ago, fought to give Runnion another term as the boss.
Fourth District Councilwoman Beth Gottstein introduced a resolution in August to reappoint Runnion to the Port Authority. "I'm trying to move good government along," she said during a City Council meeting, which featured more sniping between Funkhouser and his 12 non-disciples.
Session's misdeeds — and Runnion's enabling of them — hadn't yet been described in The Pitch or the Star. But Gottstein was still out of line, as City Attorney Galen Beaufort carefully pointed out. The resolution was illegal, he said. It was the equivalent of a congressman nominating a U.S. Supreme Court judge.
But the City Council's 12 members were so eager to stick it to Funkhouser that they passed the measure anyway. The mayor cast the lone "no" vote.
Now, in the wake of the scandal, the City Council has suddenly found salvation, calling for an audit of the Port Authority. Councilman Bill Skaggs is even suggesting that the council can disband the agency altogether. (Through a spokeswoman, Runnion declined comment; Session told The Pitch that he didn't see the obvious conflict.)
And Gottstein? She's running — or, at least, walking briskly — from her decision to force Runnion's appointment. I brought it up with her last week, after a committee meeting at City Hall. She mentioned the audit and then went into hibernation mode.
"I'm not going to say anything else," she told me. "I'm not going to say anything."
"Why not?" I pleaded. "It's a legitimate question."
"It's a great question," Gottstein said, "but I'm not going to say another word."
Gottstein waited for an elevator to take her away. As the doors to a car opened, I asked if the council's war against Funkhouser had, in this instance, resulted in bad policy. "No," Gottstein said. "I've worked very hard to make my decisions not ..."
" ... [to] keep that separate."
Funkhouser attended the same committee meeting. Afterward, he told me that it was time for Runnion to step down.
"He is a world-class manipulator," the mayor said, before turning his attention to the City Council. "But I don't think they thought through any of this stuff. Now they own it."