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Spokane Mayor Recalled in Gay Sex Scandal

SPOKANE, Wash. – Mayor James E. West says he’ll abide by the will of voters who have recalled him over abuse of office allegations that he offered City Hall jobs and perks to young men he met in a gay Internet chat room.

But he won’t leave right away.

West, 54, said he plans to stay at City Hall to take care of unfinished business until Dec. 16, the day the special recall election results are certified and he must leave office.

He’s the first Spokane elected chief executive to be ousted before his term expired.

Just over half of the 110,000 ballots mailed to city voters were counted in the first batch of results, released Tuesday night. Of those, 38,718, or 65 percent, voted to recall West, while 20,681, or 35 percent, voted to retain him.

Auditor Vicky Dalton said ballots postmarked by midnight Tuesday would continue to be counted until certification, but it did not appear there would be enough to change the outcome.

“I said I’d abide by the will of the voters, obviously, and they’ve spoken,” West told The Associated Press. “I’m at peace with their decision — and disappointed.”

West, a Republican former state legislator who voted against gay-friendly bills, has spent 27 years in public office. He said he was very proud of his accomplishments in two years as mayor.

“We’ve had a great run,” he added.

Shannon Sullivan, the Spokane mom who shepherded recall petitions through superior and state high court challenges, said she felt vindicated by the recall results.

“It’s been a long, hard seven months,” she said. “Elected officials need to be held to higher standards.”

The recall petition contended West used his political office for personal benefit. The mayor, who has not been charged with any crime, acknowledged making mistakes in his personal life, but asked voters to give him a second chance.

The Spokesman-Review newspaper conducted an undercover investigation and reported in a series of articles beginning May 5 that West was a closeted homosexual who visited gay chat rooms on his city-owned computer and offered internships and other favors to young men he hoped to have sex with.

City Council President Dennis Hession, a lawyer first elected to the seven-member council in 2002, will become mayor pro tempore of this city of 200,000 until the council appoints a replacement to finish the remaining two years of West’s term. Hession said he will apply for that appointment as well.

He said the controversy hampered the mayor’s ability to run the city, despite West’s best efforts to do his job.

“He was trying to be that leader,” Hession said. “In light of the circumstances he was unable to do that.”

West was elected mayor — which he described as his “dream job” — in 2003 after serving more than two decades as a state legislator.

The recall petition contended West used his office for personal benefit by offering a city internship to someone he thought was an 18-year-old man he’d met in a gay online chat room. The person, who West knew by the screen name “Moto-Brock,” actually was a computer expert hired by the newspaper to track the mayor’s activities in a Gay.com chat room.

The newspaper also printed allegations by two men with criminal records that West molested them when they were children and he was a sheriff’s deputy and Boy Scout leader in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

West vehemently denied the molestation allegations, and no criminal probe was launched because the statute of limitations had long expired.

West, who described himself as the victim of a “brutal outing,” has acknowledged having relationships with young men but denied doing anything illegal. West has said he plans to sue The Spokesman-Review.

Spokesman-Review Editor Steven Smith said the recall results were not a referendum on the newspaper’s journalism, but of the public’s sentiment.

“The margin suggests that this protracted process we’ve been enduring — the slow water torture of a recall — is the result of the mayor completely misreading the sentiment of this community,” Smith said. “They wanted him out. My guess is they wanted him out five or six months ago, but I don’t think he ever got it.”

The FBI is conducting a public corruption investigation and has seized the hard drives of West’s work and home computers. A lawyer hired by the Spokane City Council concluded the mayor violated state laws and city computer policies.

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