Pressure builds for Spokane mayor to step down

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May 25 2005 11:00 PM ET

Pressure on the mayor of Spokane, Wash., James E. West, to resign grew Tuesday after a newspaper published fresh accusations of past inappropriate behavior. The Spokesman-Review published reports Tuesday that West made an inappropriate comment to Washington State senator Pam Roach about her teenage son and that a former Spokane man claimed that West had fondled him during a drug arrest when West was a sheriff's deputy. West, a conservative former state senate majority leader and staunch opponent of gay rights, can be removed from office only by a recall vote. On Monday, after the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce and Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau said West should resign, West said he expects to be exonerated and plans to serve out the remaining 2 1/2 years of his term. On Wednesday the newspaper reported that a resolution asking West to resign appears certain to win passage at a council meeting next Tuesday, with six members saying they will vote for it and the seventh leaning in favor. City council member Al French also has drafted a resolution to change the city charter to allow the council to sanction or remove the mayor from office. A decision on whether to begin the process of putting that question on the ballot in November is also pending on the council's agenda next Tuesday. West, 55, a Republican, is the subject of two investigations into reports that he misused his office by offering jobs to men he met in a gay chat room. Since May 5 the newspaper has reported accusations that West molested two boys in the 1970s when he was a deputy sheriff and a Boy Scout leader and that he offered gifts, favors, and jobs at City Hall to lure young men. The mayor has denied those accounts but acknowledged having relations with adult men. The Justice Department is investigating whether West improperly used his political office and city resources, and the city is conducting a separate investigation. Roach, also a Republican, told the newspaper that on one occasion in about 1990 when she was in the senate chamber and her son, then 18, was working as a tour guide in the state capitol, "West told me, 'I want to do to your son what no mother would want to know.' He then got up and left." Roach said she told another Republican, Sen. Ann Anderson, at the time, but Anderson, now a lobbyist for Central Washington University, recalled the incident differently. Anderson, a friend of West's, told the newspaper that Roach had quoted West as saying, "Pam, you have a nice-looking young son." Roach said she later told her son, Dan Roach, now a Republican state representative from Bonney Lake, about the comment. The newspaper also reported claims by a former Spokane man who said West fondled him in 1977 when the mayor was a sheriff's deputy. Jeffrey A. Mewes, 45, said he was 17 when West shoved his hand down the front of the teenager's pants, ostensibly looking for marijuana. "He put his hand way down inside the front of my pants, like a fondling search," Mewes said. "I told him over and over, 'My weed's not there, it's in my shoe.' But he left his hand down inside my pants for a long time. I thought it was abnormal and very inappropriate." Through his private lawyer, Bill Etter, West denied the reports. "Mr. West denies each and every one of these allegations," Etter said. Roach, who acknowledged having political differences with West when he was a senator, said she likely will be criticized for speaking out against a formerly powerful senate member. "I'm just somebody that he doesn't have power over," Roach said. "It's time for the truth to come out about Mr. West." (AP)

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