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Prosecution of outed Spokane mayor unlikely

Prosecution of outed Spokane mayor unlikely

The investigation of mayor Jim West for misconduct continues.

Criminal prosecution of former Spokane, Wash., mayor Jim West for official misconduct appears unlikely, Mayor Dennis Hession said. West, 59, was recalled by 65% of the voters in a special election December 6 for allegedly misusing his city-owned computer to make dates with young men he met in an online gay chat room. Federal prosecutors last month declined to file public corruption charges. Meanwhile, a city investigation accused West of violating city computer policies and breaking a state law that prohibits public officials from using their office to pursue personal interests. But at a news conference Tuesday, state and county prosecutors punted. Washington State attorney general Rob McKenna said he can't "seize jurisdiction" in the case, which must be decided by local officials. Spokane County prosecutor Steve Tucker said he has a conflict of interest and can't get involved. He said police must decide whether West committed a felony. Police said they aren't likely to investigate. "We haven't done anything," acting Spokane police chief Jim Nicks said. "I haven't seen any of the reports compiled by the city council." Later, West's successor, Hession, said he's not inclined to direct the police department to investigate its former boss. West's "continued presence was an impediment to the continued progress of the city," but his recall makes moot the issue of his conduct in office, Hession said. A decision to prosecute West should rest with Tucker, Hession said. "I don't see any impetus from the citizens suggesting this should be pursued," Hession said. "If charges are to be filed, that's Steve Tucker's area." Tucker, a Republican like West, said he has a conflict of interest because he contributed $50 to one of West's political campaigns. "I'm conflicted out," he said, adding that a potential charge against West would come to his office only if police conclude the former mayor committed a felony. A misdemeanor charge would go to the city attorney's office. In a November 18 report for the city council, Bellevue attorney Mark Busto concluded that West violated the city's computer use policies "by accessing profane and pornographic information, pictures, and representations on his city computer." The images were of young men from a gay Web site. West also violated a state law prohibiting municipal officials from using their office to further personal interests when he appointed a man to the city's Human Rights Commission with the expectation of a sexual relationship, Busto alleged. West, who did not answer a call for comment Wednesday from the Associated Press, last year called Busto's investigation politically motivated. The former mayor, who is undergoing cancer treatments, has maintained that he broke no state or federal laws. (AP)

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