by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & J & lt;/span & im West is a disgraced former mayor who lost his job in a recall election, but nobody is going to call him a criminal. Not current Mayor Dennis Hession, not the City Council, and not the county or the state.
But West might need someplace with three squares. The former mayor is living on savings, he says, while looking for work. His pension -- remember the rumors that West was trying to hold on to his job just long enough to get a big pension boost? -- adds up to less than $10,000 a year.
In what comedian Al Franken called "the anti-gay gay mayor" fiasco, Spokane was embroiled last year in a soap opera in which West was accused of soliciting sex by using his city-issued computer to offer internships or other gifts to young men he had met in online gay chat rooms.
The FBI last month finally completed a nine-month investigation, finding that the chats did not rise to the level of federal crimes involving corruption or abuse of office. And anybody waiting for the other shoe to drop --a local criminal investigation -- can exhale.
"Somebody has to make some kind of complaint," Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker says. "It's like a burglary -- the police aren't going to come and do anything until you call and complain."
Nobody seems in the mood for criminal complaint.
Tucker says he has exchanged phone calls with state Attorney General Rob McKenna and determined "it would come to me first."
Before any legal action could take place, says Tucker, allegations that West abused his office first would need to be investigated by a local police agency. The $37,000 probe by Seattle attorney Mark Busto, ordered by the City Council, could be enough to start such an investigation if someone asked the police to look into it. But on its own, "I can't work with the Busto investigation," Tucker says.
Busto found that West had violated city policy.
Hession, who as City Council president last year recommended that the council hire Busto, is not pushing the findings onto local police, who would forward their findings to Tucker, who would decide if there was enough evidence to pursue a case. In fact, Hession's not talking about it at all.
"Dennis Hession has said all along that for him this wasn't about punishing Jim West but about moving the city forward and having an effective city government," city spokeswoman Marlene Feist says for Hession. "It is not his intention to seek additional action against the former mayor."
Same story in the City Council chambers: "The purpose of the Busto investigation was to make sure everything was done according to policy. There are no plans to do anything further," council office staffers said in lieu of any council members speaking on the issue.
Acting City Attorney Howard Delaney agrees that the Busto investigation found West to have violated city policy. "Since he's not the mayor any more, there is no discipline available. It's a moot question at this point," Delaney says.
Maybe the city could have just given West the $37,000 it spent on Busto. The former mayor, who turns 55 this month, is living on savings, he says, while facing an uphill climb to find a new job.
West has not yet applied for his state pension, says Dawn Gothro of the State Department of Retirement Systems. And it appears the pension is no golden parachute.
West, notified by the state that The Inlander was seeking his pension information, says he qualifies for $370 a month for service as a state senator, if he starts taking his pension at 55. Given his cancer, he says he may not wait till he's 65 to get a higher figure per month.
City officials say West can draw $459.96 a month after his two years as mayor. That's a combined public pension of less than $830 a month -- too much, no doubt, for his critics, but a lot less than many believed he would be retiring on.
"If I had stayed a sheriff's deputy," West says, "I probably could retire now for $50,000 [a year]."