Pressure increases on Spokane mayor to resign
Pressure on the mayor increased today as gay business leaders urged him to step down and a newspaper published transcripts of a damaging deposition.
The Associated Press
SPOKANE — Pressure on Mayor James West to resign in the wake of a homosexual sex scandal increased today as gay business leaders urged him to step down and a newspaper published transcripts of a damaging deposition.
The Inland Northwest Business Alliance, which represents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual business owners and professionals, said the political damage and lack of community support for West undermines his ability lead the city.
"Therefore we ask for Mr. West's swift resignation from his office," the alliance said.
West, a former Republican state legislator and opponent of gay rights bills, revealed earlier this month that he was a closeted homosexual after The Spokesman-Review published damaging allegations about his secretive activities.
The newspaper today published transcripts of a deposition from a lawsuit that is the basis for claims that West abused a sixth-grader when the mayor was a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The deposition of Robert J. Galliher, 36, of Seattle, was released by Terry Lackie, a private attorney defending Spokane County, after the newspaper filed a request under the state's Open Records Act.
Galliher alleges in the document that he was sexually abused by West at least four times between the ages of 8 and 12, and that West and Deputy David Hahn gave him alcohol and marijuana. Galliher is suing the county, alleging the sheriff's office was negligent in hiring, supervising and retaining Hahn.
West is not a defendant in the lawsuit, but was a fellow deputy, close friend and fellow Boy Scout leader with Hahn, who committed suicide in 1981.
West has repeatedly denied Galliher's allegations, calling them "flat lies."
Much of the information published today corroborates earlier stories the newspaper published when it began its investigative series about West on May 5.
West, 55, is the subject of separate investigations by the Justice Department and the city into reports that he misused his office by offering jobs to young men he met in a gay chat room.
The newspaper has also reported that West more recently has offered gifts, favors and jobs at City Hall to lure young men he met online.
West denied the accusations but acknowledged that he visited gay chat rooms and had relations with adult males.
Yesterday, City Council President Dennis Hession told The Associated Press that all seven council members are expected to vote for a resolution asking West to resign. The council will consider that resolution next Tuesday, along with a measure to start the process of revising the city charter to allow the council to discipline or fire a mayor.
West said he would be in Tampa, Fla., from Tuesday through Thursday of next week, attending a meeting of the Commerce Department's Strengthening America's Communities Initiative, an advisory committee of which he is a member.
West, who has 2 1/2 years left in his term, does not routinely attend council meetings and is not bound by the council's resolutions. Under the city's strong-mayor form of government, West can be removed from office only through a recall vote. A woman has filed a recall petition.
"It's not a political statement so much as we consider it to be our leadership responsibility to ask the mayor to do the right thing, to put the interests of the city ahead of his own interests," Hession said.
"Our need is to separate him from City Hall," he added. "Right now, there is a cloud over his administration. If he were to distance himself from City Hall, that cloud would go with him."
Should West refuse to resign, the council would continue to work with him, although relations would be "awkward," Hession said.
On Monday, West rejected calls for his resignation from the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce and Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. Yesterday, the board of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council also urged him to step down.
"We're getting too much negative coverage. And not only in the United States, but I'm hearing about it from people in Europe and I got an e-mail from a guy in China," said Jon Eliassen, EDC president and chief executive officer. "I mean, this is not good."