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Judge to hear recall complaint against Spokane's gay mayor

Judge to hear recall complaint against Spokane's gay mayor

A judge was to hear arguments Wednesday over whether allegations against Spokane mayor James E. West, who is embroiled in a gay sex scandal, are adequate to start circulating recall petitions. Visiting Benton County superior court judge Craig Matheson must determine whether the three recall charges against West are legally and factually sufficient to proceed. West, who has denied breaking the law, said last week that he expects the recall effort to fail. Should Matheson decide the recall can go forward, organizers would have six months to collect the 12,600 signatures of registered voters needed to put the issue on the ballot. Spokane resident Shannon Sullivan filed the recall charges, alleging misfeasance after West was accused of using a city-owned computer to post messages on a gay Web site, soliciting young men to become interns "for his own personal purposes," and hurting the city's reputation. Sullivan said she filed the recall charges after she was unable to explain newspaper reports of West's behavior to her son. The Spokane city council, local and state Republicans, and some civic and business groups in Spokane have called on West to step down, but under Spokane's strong-mayor system of government, only a recall can remove him from office. In a series of articles beginning last month, The Spokesman-Review reported allegations by two men that West molested them when they were children and he was a sheriff's deputy two decades ago. West has vehemently denied those allegations. The newspaper also reported that West more recently entered a gay Internet chat room and tried to entice young men he met there with offers of perks and City Hall jobs. He is also accused of sexually harassing an openly gay man he recommended for an appointment to the city's Human Rights Commission. West was elected Spokane's mayor in 2003. Before that, he was a longtime legislator who rose to be one of Washington State's most powerful Republicans as senate majority leader. West regularly voted against gay rights measures in the legislature but acknowledged having relations with adult men after the newspaper articles appeared last month. The mayor, who has 2 1/2 years remaining in his four-year term, has said he does not intend to resign and will be vindicated by investigations by the Justice Department and an independent panel appointed by the city attorney. Matheson was asked to hear the case after Spokane County judges recused themselves because of previous contacts with West when he was in the legislature. (AP)

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