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Spokane mayor says he's victim of "brutal outing"

Spokane mayor says he's victim of "brutal outing"

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Spokane, Wash., mayor James E. West, a former Washington State senate majority leader who consistently opposed gay rights, is getting a taste of his own medicine, a critic says. West, a conservative Republican who became mayor in January 2004, has taken a leave of absence and is the subject of a preliminary FBI probe following newspaper reports that he offered city jobs to young men he met in a gay chat room in exchange for sex. In a series that began last week, The Spokesman-Review also published accusations by two convicted felons who said he molested them more than two decades ago, when he was a Boy Scout leader and sheriff's deputy. West, 54, has vehemently denied that he molested anyone or had sex with anyone younger than 18 but has acknowledged he visited Gay.com and had relations with adult men. On Wednesday city attorney Michael F. Connelly asked the FBI and the state attorney general to open formal investigations of West, citing potential conflicts of interest for local agencies. "We believe it is in the best interest of the citizens and the city of Spokane to request these investigations by independent agencies," Connelly said in a statement. The city will proceed with an investigation of whether the mayor improperly used city computers, he said. The FBI has already launched a "preliminary inquiry," a probe that could last for 180 days, to determine whether there is evidence of a federal crime that warrants further investigation, agent Raymond G. Lauer said Wednesday. "It doesn't mean a federal crime has been committed," Lauer said. "Where there is some smoke, we are going to look for a fire." West's many votes against gay rights as a politician were cited by Mike Kress, vice chairman of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, in an op-ed piece Wednesday in The Spokesman-Review. "The hypocrisy, cynicism, and lies upon which Mr. West built his political career harmed homosexuals in our state, and his sexual orientation is thus a legitimate topic for discussion," Kress wrote. "Jim West opposed every piece of gay rights legislation he could vote on, claiming homosexuals need no protection," he added. "Yet by staying 'in the closet,' Mayor West illustrates the fact that homosexuals face more hardships in their day-to-day lives than straight people." The chorus of people calling for West's resignation grew louder on Wednesday as Spokane radio station KGA editorialized that the mayor should step down. The Spokesman-Review and The Seattle Times have also called for his resignation, as have former Spokane mayors John Talbott and Sheri Barnard. West's votes on gay rights issues as a state legislator and as mayor include: - In January 1986, West and 14 other state house Republicans introduced a bill to bar gays and lesbians from working in schools, day care centers, and some state agencies. The bill, which called for firing state workers whose homosexuality became known, failed. Also in 1986, he voted to bar the state from distributing pamphlets telling people how to protect themselves from AIDS during sex. - West opposed gay rights bills introduced in 1985 and 1987. - In 1998, as a senator, West voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. - In 2003, West, as senate majority leader, bottled up a gay rights bill in committee, where it died. - As incoming mayor of Spokane in November 2003, West opposed giving benefits to domestic partners of city workers; the city council approved domestic-partner benefits in a 5-2 vote in April, enough to withstand a mayoral veto, which did not occur. (AP)

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Spokane mayor says he's victim of "brutal outing"

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