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West demanded
swift action against governor in sex scandal

West demanded
swift action against governor in sex scandal

When former Washington Democratic governor Mike Lowry became embroiled in a sex scandal in 1995, it was Spokane mayor James E. West--then a state senator--who led the effort to impeach him, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Now, West is embroiled in his own sex scandal and is resisting efforts to remove him from office.

West was a Republican member of the state senate in 1995, when Lowry was accused of harassing a female aide.

Without the support of his caucus, West drafted an impeachment resolution for the state house to consider, arguing that Republicans shouldn't wait until the 1996 election to challenge Lowry, The Spokesman-Review reports, citing newly released documents.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," West wrote in a March 29, 1995, letter to state representative Clyde Ballard, a Wenatchee Republican, who served as the speaker of the house. Washington's constitution calls for impeachment to be initiated in the state house of representatives.

West's handwritten notes and other documents on the Lowry flap were found recently in a file among West's official papers in the Washington State Archives in Olympia.

West was a social conservative who often voted against gay rights bills. In May, The Spokesman-Review began running stories outing West as a closeted homosexual and contending he offered perks to young men and city hall jobs in exchange for dates.

West has denied improperly using his office or committing any crimes but acknowledged having relationships with adult men. The FBI is investigating.

In the Lowry case West wanted a quick impeachment.

"Impeaching a governor is serious business, but the governor should not be held to any lower standard than anyone else in our society," West wrote. "Governors cannot and should not flaunt the law."

"If only half of the allegations are indeed true and this were anyone but the governor, there would be no questions asked, he would be summarily fired," West added.

West's critics found fuel in the documents.

"Isn't it funny how the things you say never go away?" said Spokane city council president Dennis Hession, who has called on West to resign. West has refused but said he will leave office if a recall effort succeeds.

"He was the first to jump on Lowry, but he's defending himself to the hilt. What does that say about his character?" said Shannon Sullivan, the Spokane mother leading the recall effort.

In a June 3 press conference arranged by his lawyers, West said he'd been wrong to call for Lowry's impeachment in his earlier, "angry days" in the legislature. He singled out Lowry and former president Bill Clinton as Democrats who survived sex scandals and went on to perform well in their final years in office.

The Lowry episode was investigated in 1995 by Seattle attorney Mary Alice Theiler, who is now a federal court judge in Seattle. She concluded that there was insufficient legal evidence that Lowry's behavior toward press aide Susanne Albright met the definition of sexual harassment.

Lowry apologized to his staff and did not seek reelection in 1996.

West was rebuked by the GOP leadership in a closed-door meeting for making the impeachment proposal against Lowry, according to news accounts at the time.

When Ballard said he wasn't going to be distracted during the legislative session, West criticized the speaker and said "the leadership of the house aren't red-meat eaters." (AP)

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