Mayor James E. West must leave office this month after voters recalled him in a special election sparked by allegations he used a city computer to woo gay men over the Internet. West, 54, must leave his position when the election results are certified December 16. He has not been charged with a crime, but FBI agents have seized computers from his home as part of an investigation.
"I said I'd abide by the will of the voters, obviously, and they've spoken," West told the Associated Press Tuesday. "I'm at peace with their decision and disappointed." The recall election was launched by a local resident, Shannon Sullivan, who said she felt vindicated by the results.
West, a former Boy Scouts executive and sheriff's deputy, was elected mayor in 2003 after serving more than two decades as a conservative Republican in the state legislature, where he voted against gay-friendly bills. A little more than half of the 110,000 ballots mailed to voters were counted in the first batch of results released Tuesday night. Of those, 38,718, or 65%, voted to recall West, while 20,681, or 35%, voted to retain him.
The recall campaign began after The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported in May that West was a closeted homosexual who visited gay chat rooms from his city-owned laptop computer and offered internships and other favors to young men he hoped to have sex with.
Sullivan, a single mother with a high school education and no legal background, shepherded her petitions for a recall vote through superior court and state high court challenges brought by the mayor's lawyers. "It's been a long, hard seven months," she said Tuesday. "Elected officials need to be held to higher standards." Sullivan has said she started the campaign after finding herself at a loss to explain newspaper reports of West's behavior to her 9-year-old son.
West, who has repeatedly voted against gay rights, has denied any wrongdoing. In a newspaper ad he acknowledged making "personal mistakes" but insisted he had "never done anything to harm our city." (AP)