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Recall of Spokane mayor to proceed

Recall of Spokane mayor to proceed

Proceedings have begun to recall mayor James E. West of Spokane, Wash.

Embattled Spokane, Wash., mayor James E. West may appeal a judge's decision that a recall petition over a gay sex scandal can proceed to the signature-gathering phase. Benton County superior court judge Craig J. Matheson on Monday threw out two of the recall charges made against West by Shannon Sullivan, a Spokane resident, but said the allegation that West improperly offered city jobs to prospective dates he met in a gay chat room should be put before voters. "That to my mind is an improper use of the office," Matheson said Monday. West said late Monday that the judge's ruling does not mean he is guilty of any abuse of office. "It's important to note that the judge repeatedly mentioned that he was making no factual finding as to its accuracy but simply that he felt that the threshold standard for recall had been met," West said in an e-mailed press release. "I respectfully disagree.... At the present time we're strongly considering appeal of the court's ruling, and I will be discussing this with my attorneys in the next couple of days." Sullivan, an unemployed florist and novice political activist who argued the misfeasance charges without a lawyer, now must collect more than 12,600 signatures in six months to put the recall on the ballot. "I will get those signatures. I promise I will get those signatures," an emotional Sullivan told reporters outside the courtroom. Sullivan filed recall documents last month after a the publication of a series of articles by The Spokesman-Review newspaper. Her petition accused West of using a city-owned computer to offer City Hall internships to young men on a gay Web site, of soliciting young men to become interns "for his own personal purposes," and of hurting the city's reputation. Matheson found that the allegations of misusing the city computer and embarrassing the city were not concise enough to place before voters. He allowed recall petitions to be circulated on a charge that the mayor offered City Hall jobs to prospective interns "in the context of a social, quite social, e-mail exchange." In a series of articles beginning last month, The Spokesman-Review reported claims 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 visited an Internet gay chat room and tried to entice young men he met there with offers of perks and City Hall jobs. The mayor also is accused of sexually harassing an openly gay man he recommended for appointment to the city's Human Rights Commission. West was elected mayor in 2003. Before that, he was a longtime state legislator who rose to be one of the state's most powerful Republicans as Washington State senate majority leader. West regularly voted against gay rights measures while he was in the legislature; despite that, he has acknowledged having sexual relations with adult men. 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. (AP)

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