by Ted S. McGregor Jr., Richard Brown and Mike Fitzsimmons
Before Jim West and his attorneys Bill Etter and Carl Oreskovich appeared for our interview on Tuesday afternoon, photographers swatted flies and we debated the finer points of TV make-up. Soon enough, however, the room itself began to play a part. We did the interview in the old Glover Mansion -- Kirtland Cutter's first big commission as an architect. The home stands as a reminder that, in Spokane, fortunes can be easily reversed. James Glover founded the city, helped it grow and had Cutter build him the finest home in the region as his reward. But he didn't get to enjoy it for long; soon he was ruined by shifting finances, and he had to vacate to a more humble address.
Jim West knows a lot about reversals of fortunes, too, but you wouldn't have known it when he entered. He was in a chipper mood and even cracked a few jokes at his own expense. After all, as our poll shows, he doesn't have much to lose.
Not surprisingly, West found some silver linings to the poll numbers -- especially that only 45 percent of Spokane residents support the recall election.
Over the course of the 45-minute interview, he took it to the Spokesman-Review -- as they've been taking it to him. "I'm not going to speculate on what their agenda is," he said at one point, "but they obviously have one."
He would not answer questions about potential legal recourse against the newspaper, but he did say there "may be action later."
He reiterated how his faith has been revived by the controversy.
He said he is seeking counseling because of his past dating habits -- which he stressed are now in his past.
He said he could continue to be effective as mayor -- and even if he's slightly less effective, he promised that he'd still outperform previous mayors.
He said he has never given out public jobs in exchange for any personal reason.
And he started by saying it might take nothing more than some good editing for the recall petition to earn his blessing.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation. You can watch the entire interview on KXLY News 4 tonight (June 30) at 7 pm. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Richard Brown I want to talk to you about the appeal. A lot of people said if you really wanted the voters to make a decision about your future, then you should have let that recall petition go forward. Why did you [appeal]?
Jim West As I said in my press conference, I'm willing to live by the will of the voters. It has to be their process. [But] the ballot title and the things that were presented in court weren't an accurate reflection of what may have occurred.
Richard Brown So if they change the wording?
Jim West Yeah. If they changed the wording, and if it were less prejudicial, I'd think it would be a fair process.
Mike Fitzsimmons Are you able, Mr. Mayor, to actually compartmentalize that easily? This is hanging over your head every day, and ... this does change things, doesn't it?
Jim West It's kind of interesting, Mike. You know, I've dealt with many difficult things over the course of my life, and had to set things aside ... and concentrate on things that were more important. Personally, I've turned the issue over to God. I said, "God, you know, please, take care of this for me, while I run the city." Last year, I had major cancer surgery. The year before, right after the election, I had cancer surgery; I went through chemotherapy. That's part of my life over there -- it's serious. It's debilitating, but I also have to run the city.
Ted McGregor As you know, the occasion for our interview is the major polling effort by Strategic Research Associates. The big number that jumps out at me is, "Do you think the mayor should resign, based on what you know right now?" Sixty-one percent say you should resign. Does that number surprise you?
Jim West Not really. In the last 53, 54 days, there's been nearly 100 articles -- there may have been over 100 articles -- printed in the Spokesman-Review. Almost daily, the TV stations are running a huge story -- you know, "Mayor Under Fire," I think is the title some of the stations use. And it's basically the same story over and over. It's a constant pounding on the city. The Spokesman-Review had two-and-a-half years to investigate these allegations of molestation. ... I've had a month and a half, to go back and basically confirm my alibi. ... Given that, it doesn't surprise me. What gives me hope is that the same survey says only 45 percent of the people would go for a recall. ... Forty-eight percent voted against me as mayor in the first place.
Richard Brown Twenty-seven percent are undecided [on the question about whether they support the recall].
Jim West They're waiting for my side of the story. And if my side of the story is such that it disproves these claims, and I think it will, then I think they'll support me staying in office.
Mike Fitzsimmons Is there anything you can offer us that would tend to comfort the citizens of Spokane [that the allegations of child molestation are false]?
Jim West Now it's a case of going back, and we're probably looking at hiring private detectives to go back and look to see -- to verify where I was at the time that these people say these things happened and if they were where they say these things happened. I know it didn't happen.
Ted McGregor These things are maybe never going to be proven. ... but for a lot of people, there is that whiff of authenticity based on guilt by association. I'm talking about [Sheriff's Deputy] David Hahn...
Jim West We worked together on the Sheriff's Department for about a year and a half.
Ted McGregor What can you say about those days? Did you suspect anything? I don't know that anything's ever been proven against him either.
Jim West You know, I've talked to some of the other parents that were in the Boy Scout troop we were the adult leaders for, and they didn't suspect anything -- [these are] some pretty substantial businessmen in this community. Dave, he was a Vietnam hero, wounded in action. You know, he was a college graduate, and I wasn't. Top of the class in the Sheriff's Department. All those things, just perfect role models -- if you met him today, you'd think he was a perfect role model.
Ted McGregor Do you believe the allegations against him?
Jim West Well, I don't know. It shocked me when I was told about it. You look back and you try to think of signs or things you might have seen and picked up on. And I don't see those things, but the fact that he killed himself -- I've read the investigation report. So I don't know.
Richard Brown Do you think there is a guilt by association? Your name mentioned with his? But at the same time, in all of the paperwork that has come from the Sheriff's office, your name is not in any of it. Yet there are two men who accuse you ... Is this guilt by association, and how do you defend yourself against that?
Jim West It is guilt by association. [Spokesman-Review reporter] Bill Morlin spent two years trying to find evidence that corroborates these two men who were in prison together's story. He called all of my Boy Scouts. They would call me and say, "Why is this guy calling me and asking me questions?" He told me in that interview that he couldn't find anybody that would corroborate ... And he didn't believe that it happened. He said that in the interview; it's in the transcript. And yet he used this other story to make that the headline.
Richard Brown The city council has asked you to resign. Chamber of Commerce. Business leaders. Republican Party has asked you to resign.
Jim West The Republican Party -- I'm non-partisan now.
Richard Brown Now you are. How do you respond to that? Do you ignore that call for resignation?
Jim West Again, the calls for resignation are based on what people have read about in the newspaper and based on what their reaction is to that. I've had conversations with every one of those groups, and they've all said that they'll work with me in a professional manner. The council -- I'm not responsible for the council. You know, the previous mayor didn't get along with the council, the previous mayor to that didn't get along with the council, the previous mayor to that... I was the first mayor to get along with the council. But there'll be a new council in January, and I am working with many of the council members on critical projects that need to move forward in the city. I'm doing that today.
Ted McGregor I think fixing the streets and working on the building permits is a big part of the equation for any mayor, but every election I've covered around here, it's always been about economic development -- better jobs. I think that the hope of the strong mayor was that you would become the face of Spokane. And right now, I think that the business community is not comfortable with that. Do you have any strategy for a workaround, to get different people involved, or do you think you can still go to the CEO meetings and meet and greet the movers and shakers?
Jim West The day the Chamber of Commerce asked me to resign, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, I bumped into him up at Luna's. He had two out-of-town guests from San Diego. I was at a nearby table having dinner with a lobbyist from Olympia who I knew from my previous life as a legislator. When I walked in the room, he jumped up, greeted me and told me it was nothing personal, we could still be friends. And he promptly introduced me to his two friends from San Diego as the mayor of Spokane.
Mike Fitzsimmons This poll does not contain a lot of good news. There are some things that...
Jim West Fifty-five percent of the people say I could be as effective or slightly less effective; 45 percent say they'd vote to recall me and the rest are either undecided or wouldn't. Those are positives.
Mike Fitzsimmons Is it unreasonable, Mr. Mayor, that former supporters ... somehow feel betrayed or offended or disappointed by you and not necessarily from what these charges are about.
Jim West It's kind of curious, because I've received a number of e-mails from people who say, "I didn't vote for you before, but I'd vote for you this time. I can't believe what the newspaper is trying to do to you." ... While I may have lost some [support], I may have gained some. I represent 100 percent of the people in the city, and people are hurt right now. I'm hurt. This whole thing is embarrassing -- I'm ashamed of it. But there's a healing process as we go through these investigations -- as we go through us basically disproving many of these claims. There's forgiveness, too; I've asked for forgiveness from the people. And if the people will keep an open mind and not rush to judgment... When this all broke, there was this natural reaction to rush to judgment.
Richard Brown Let's talk about the other allegation that we haven't talked about. That is the use of the computer at the office and the allegations that the city panel is now looking into about whether you violated any laws [or] policies in using that computer to offer internships in return for sex, in return for some kind of personal benefit for yourself.
Jim West Didn't happen. I haven't done anything illegal; I haven't done anything unethical. I may have done some stuff in my personal life and my personal computer that I'm not very proud of. I have never offered anybody a job or an internship in exchange for anything.