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Paper publishes excerpts from Spokane mayor's chats

Paper publishes excerpts from Spokane mayor's chats

For decades, Washington State Republican Jim West amassed political power and used it to pursue a conservative agenda, one that included blocking laws that would guarantee equal treatment of gays and lesbians. Now that West has been unmasked as having had homosexual relationships himself and as having used his position as Spokane mayor to find young men in chat rooms, his former political allies have fallen silent. But some of his enemies--and there are many--are eager to talk. "What goes around comes around.... It's about time," said Sen. Pam Roach, an Auburn, Wash., Republican who clashed personally and professionally with West in the state senate. West served 20 years in the state legislature, rising to the post of senate majority leader before resigning in 2003 to become mayor of Spokane. The Spokesman-Review published the allegations against West on Thursday, following a three-year investigation. In addition to the newspaper's sting operation that caught West chatting openly on the Web site about his homosexual relations, the investigation revealed accusations of sexual abuse by two men who were children at the time of the alleged incidents. West confirmed to the newspaper that he offered gifts, favors, and a City Hall internship during chat sessions on to a man he believed was 18 but who was actually a forensic computer expert working for The Spokesman-Review. On Thursday, West said he will not resign. He confirmed that he'd pursued relationships with men in person and online. In an e-mail issued to Spokane city employees, West apologized for bringing embarrassment to the mayor's office. "I stumbled and let you down," West wrote. On Friday the newspaper published excerpts from West's conversations in an online gay chat room and instant messages to "Moto-Brock," a former government computer expert hired by the paper. The Spokesman-Review said "JMSElton" was a screen name West used. Punctuation is as it appeared in the messages. From a February 26 conversation using instant messaging: JMSElton: "Remember, Im very closeted. No one knows I like guys. Except the few guys Ive been with and highly trusted." JMSElton: "Its just that the openly gay guys are a little over the top for me. I dont really like the in-your-face attitude some guys have. And the massive political agenda either. I say live and let live. Most gay guys turn me off, too." Their third online chat, again using instant messaging, occurs March 8. When JMSElton asks for a picture, Moto-Brock sends a random photo of a young, dark-haired, athletic-looking man. JMSElton: "I could never be into the gay scene with its politics and all. Ive just seen too many guys decide once they come out that it becomes everyone elses problem to deal with. Im not into femmy guys." JMSElton: "Its our secret here." The two chat online again March 8 and then March 9. JMSElton says he's going to Washington, D.C., on business and mentions taking a couple of high school interns with him on a business trip there years earlier. Moto-Brock: "Ohhhhh. You are killing me here. I want an internship! So I can go to DC." JMSElton tells Moto-Brock he has a friend who might be able to get the teen an internship. On March 21, Moto-Brock receives an e-mail from West. It reads in part, "A friend of mine has asked if I would consider you for an internship in the mayors office" and goes on to tell him how to apply. Moto-Brock e-mails JMSElton the following: "Holy crap, is this for real!!?!? The mayor of Spokane sending me an e-mail inviting me to apply for an internship? I cant hardly believe it! He is really a friend of yours? That is unreal. Well, I dont know what to say 'thank you' seems like not enough." When JMSElton and Moto-Brock talk online April 9, they talk about meeting. West electronically sends his photo during the chat, then sends an Internet link to the mayor's biography page at City Hall. JMSElton: "Well its a part of my life I dont share at all and is somewhat new to me." JMSElton: "Someday I may run for governor and this would be bad if you know what I mean." During a chat last New Year's Eve, an 18-year-old man who claimed he had a sexual encounter with West on a date in June 2004 said, "You wouldn't be in the position you are in today if the right-winged supporters knew you like to mess around with guys." West replied, "Two consenting adults must have the ability to protect their privacy or else the damn sex Nazis will be telling everyone what to do." West's days in power are numbered even if he doesn't resign, said Washington State University political scientist Lance LeLoup. "He was probably one of the most influential eastern Washington politicians," LeLoup said. "I believe his political career is over. Plenty of politicians overcome scandals, but I don't see how it's possible in this case." Politicians and political observers across the state were buzzing with the news on Thursday, but they weren't necessarily shocked. Rumors about West's sexuality have circulated in Olympia and Spokane for years. "There have been things people suspected for years," said Roach, who called West a "cutthroat politician." Republican senator Brad Benson of Spokane said the allegations are "disturbing, and that's putting it lightly." West backed another candidate when Benson ran for the state senate in 2004. "He worked very hard to get me unelected," Benson said. Still, he said, West should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. "If he's a homosexual or bisexual or whatever and having sex with consenting adults, that's not a reason for him to resign," Benson said. "But if the molestation charges are true, he should be in prison." In the newspaper's report, two men accused West of molesting them in the 1970s when they were boys and West was a sheriff's deputy and Boy Scout leader. West, now 54, has denied the allegations of sexual abuse. No criminal investigations are under way, according to the Spokane County sheriff and Spokane city police department. State senate majority leader Lisa Brown, a Spokane Democrat, said Thursday that West's sexual orientation isn't the issue. "Rather, allegations of a pattern of abuse of power and possible unethical conduct by the mayor are deeply troubling," Brown said in a written statement. "In addition, the public's trust is eroded when what elected officials advocate is different from how they conduct their own life." West has strongly opposed gay rights during his political career. He supported a bill that would have barred gays and lesbians from working for schools, day care centers, and some state agencies. That bill failed. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed, banning same-sex marriage. And for years he helped to block a bill that would prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, employment, and insurance. As Spokane mayor, West threatened to veto a measure extending benefits to domestic partners of city employees. But the city council approved the measure by a 5-2 vote, enough to override a mayoral veto. "Methinks he doth protest too much," LeLoup said. "It's a pretty egregious case of hypocrisy." "I was disgusted--all those years of him voting that way," said Kevan Gardner with the Pride Foundation, a Spokane organization that supports gays and lesbians. "It's just unfortunate that he's been such an enemy to our community and we find out he's possibly a member of our community...not necessarily one we want."(AP)

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