Sunday, May 8, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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West must resign as Spokane mayor

Jim West, who rose to the top ranks of the state Republican Party over many years as a state lawmaker, should resign as mayor of Spokane.

Allegations of child molestation many years ago, along with use of the perquisites of his office to lure a man he believed to be 18 into a date, will overwhelm his ability to fully serve the citizens of Spokane.

Use of a City Hall computer and offers of a city internship to a young man he was courting online show a tragic willingness to abuse power. Elected officials must be held to the highest standards of ethical conduct.

West can no longer preside over the city's business with full public confidence.

In a shocking news story published by the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, West is accused by two men of molesting them in the 1970s when they were children and West was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy and Boy Scout leader.

Allegations at this point are just that. West is innocent until proven otherwise. But responding to the accusations will take time and energy.

In light of the allegations, West has all but admitted he is bisexual. He also admitted frequenting a Web site intended for a gay audience. Many people are surprised to learn about West's sexuality, but that in itself is no reason to resign. West is not married. His private life is his own.

That said, West also must face the hypocrisy of his stances on gay rights as a state legislator and mayor. On several occasions, West voted against legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. According to the Spokesman-Review, he supported legislation that would have prohibited gays and lesbians from working in schools and day-care centers.

As recently as last week, he opposed a Spokane City Council ordinance extending benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

The sad irony is West now seeks the kind of respect for his privacy and sexuality that he was unwilling to grant, legislatively, to others.

The Spokane paper used a ruse to learn more about West. The paper hired a computer expert who posed as an 18-year-old to communicate with West in online chats that included plans to meet in person and for the young man to seek an internship in the mayor's office.

The newspaper's methodology is objectionable, because reporters should readily identify themselves as they seek and report the truth.

It is also true, however, that the consultant met West on turf of West's choosing.

Jim West's story is a sad one for the man, the city of Spokane and the state. West's sexuality is his private business. His use of his public job, and the perks that go with it, to entice teenagers into dates is a public matter.

West can best deal with his problems on his own time by stepping down as mayor of Spokane.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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