- James E. West (politician)
:"This article is about the Washington state politician. For the BSA Chief Executive, see
James E. West (Scouting).":"For other similar names see James West."James Elton "Jim" West ( March 28 1951– July 22 2006) was an American politician. While serving as mayorof Spokane, Washington, he became embroiled in a sex scandal exposed by the major local newspaper, the " Spokesman Review". West was later recalled during a special election held on December 6 2005was officially stripped of his duties as mayor ten days later. He died of cancer on 2006-07-22, five months after he was cleared of criminal charges by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
West was a native Spokanite. He served in the U.S. Army after high school and graduated from
Gonzaga Universitywith a degree in Criminal Justicein 1978. In 1982 West joined the Washington Legislatureas a Republican and served until 2003, when he became mayor of Spokane.
While in the legislature he served as
Senate Majority Leader. During these years, West supported several anti-gay bills, including one that would have banned gays and lesbians from working in schools and day care centers. He also proposed a law that would ban all sexual activity among persons under the age of 18 (the bill failed). He would later admit that he regretted voting for those measures. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/] In 1995, when West was a state senator, he advocated the impeachmentof then-Gov. Mike Lowryfor alleged sexual harassment.
West was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003, underwent multiple surgeries, and died from complications of the disease on
July 22 2006. [http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002649195_west27m.html]
David D. Hahn was a close friend of Jim West and a fellow officer with the Spokane Sheriff's Department. West and Hahn also worked together as troop leaders with a Spokane chapter of the
Boy Scouts of America. In 1981, after charges of sexual abuse of boys by Hahn became public, Hahn committed suicide.
In June 2003 under the leadership of editor Steven A. Smith, the "Spokesman Review" began a series of investigative reports into this wave of sexual abuse which occurred in Spokane during the 1970s and 1980's. The events were not covered by the Spokane media at the time they happened.
Starting in 2003 "Spokesman Review" reporter Bill Morlin began searching for information that might link West to the crimes. After more than 18 months of investigation Morlin had to give up this search as he could find no sources who were able to link West with sexual abuse committed by Hahn. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/view/]
However, as a result of this investigation West eventually became the target of a sting operation conducted by the newspaper. In 2004 Morlin received a tip from a still unidentified source that the real identity of the persona on the [http://gay.com Gay.com] website named "Cobra82" was in fact Spokane mayor James West. The newspaper then hired a professional investigator to create a false online persona on Gay.com named "Motobrock." This tactic was then used by the newspaper to arrange a meeting between the two. When Jim West turned up at for the meeting on a Spokane golf course the newspaper editor correctly concluded that Cobra82 was in fact the mayor. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/view/]
Scandal becomes public
In 2005 the "Spokesman Review" broke the story revealing new sex-abuse charges against West. Robert J. Galliher claimed that West had committed sexual abuse against him while a member of West's Boy Scout troupe. The new charges first came to light more than 20 years after the event and could not be confirmed by other witnesses. The validity of the allegations was also hurt by the fact that Galliher had a long criminal record. West called the molestation allegations "flat lies". However he admitted to having private online relationships in the past year through the Gay.com website. [http://www.spokesmanreview.com/jimwest/story.asp?ID=050505_westmain]
West confirmed the accusations of meeting men over the Internet but denied the charges that he had sought out minors. [http://www.365gay.com/newscon05/05/050905spokane.htm] Using the names "Cobra82" and "Right-BiGuy" he allegedly offered unpaid
internships to young gay men (some of whom were just graduating from high school - none of whom, however, under the age of 18). [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/outing/response.html]
Calls for his resignation spread. West defended himself on a
May 30, 2005, "Today Show" appearance. West explained his support for laws which were unfavorable to gays in this way: "If someone hires you to paint their house red, then you paint it red. Even if you think it would look better green." In a Spokane City Council meeting immediately afterward, a resolution requesting that he step down was passed unanimously (7-0), yet West announced he intended to continue on as Mayor.
On June 2, the Spokane County Republican Party, Washington State Republican Party, and Spokane County Democratic Chairwoman Katie Kirking called for West's resignation. [http://spokesmanreview.com/breaking/story.asp?submitDate=200562104818] The
FBIand a special city commission were set up to investigate and determine if any laws or policies have been broken. [http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002294146_webmayor31.html] In early August 2005, the FBI searched West's home and seized his personal computers as part of its public corruption investigation.
Shannon Sullivan, a Spokane citizen with no prior legal experience, filed a recall petition. A Superior Court Justice threw out two counts on the petition and upheld one. West then appealed that ruling to the State Supreme Court. On
August 24 2005, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sullivan, allowing the recall to go forward. Because the State Supreme Court heard and ruled on this case in an emergency session during their summer recess, they did not file and publish a full opinion following their ruling.
Recall organizers collected over 17,000 signatures and submitted them to the elections office on
September 21 2005. The elections office determined that more than 12,567 of those signatures were valid, so a special mail-in election was held on December 6 2005, to determine whether West would remain in office.
West was recalled by voters with 65% in favor of ousting him to 35% in favor of keeping him as mayor, with his term ending
December 16 2005, the day the final votes were certified by the Spokane County Auditor's office.
The ousting of West also marked the first time in the history of Spokane that a sitting mayor was voted out of office. His duties were temporarily turned over to then-city council president
Dennis P. Hessionon December 16, 2005, who was later appointed by the city council to serve as mayor for the remainder of West's term. West was cleared of all charges by the FBI on February 16, 2006.
In the final days of his life, West was mulling over another opportunity to run for office. He also told KREM in his last TV interview that during his tenure in the state legislature he only regretted one vote, for a bill that would have banned gays from working in schools and day-care centers.
By the early fall of 2005 West's isolation from the Spokane community was nearly complete. He had only a few friends and family to turn to for support during his illness. He joined the traditional Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church led by Pastor Lonnie Mitchell. He received support and attended regularly until his death. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/view/]
List of votes from all of West's elections.
* [http://spokesmanreview.com/jimwest/ "Spokesman Review" full investigative report]
* [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/default.cdnx/id/8044601/displaymode/1157 Today Show]
* [http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002649195_west27m.html Even the mayor wonders: Who is the real Jim West? (Seattle Times)]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hiddenlife/ PBS Frontline report "A Hidden Life" (November 2006)]
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