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The Mayor Responds 

by Mayor Jim West

With more than 92 articles, hundreds of column inches, thousands of words, several editorials and screaming headlines by the Spokesman-Review, people have a hard time remembering this simple fact: In our system, a person is innocent until proven guilty.

The Spokesman-Review is not the judge or the jury, and their accusations are false.

I did not molest anyone, 25 years ago or ever; and I have not misused my official office for personal gain. I am certain the investigations now being conducted will show that I have done nothing that makes me unfit for public office.

I look forward to the time when the City Council and the Spokesman-Review can turn their attention away from my private life and onto the pressing needs of the city. In City Hall each day, that's what I do as I continue to focus on the future of Spokane and work with our employees to deliver the best services possible for everyone. At the same time, I will continue to defend myself against falsehoods by using appropriate legal means.

Earlier this week, my lawyers filed an appeal to allow the state Supreme Court to review the recall petition filed against me. The citizens of Spokane deserve to know why I have decided to appeal. Simply put, it is because the charges are false, and the ballot statement they would vote on was improperly prepared and is prejudicial.

A recall is unique in our court system: The judge makes no attempt to determine if the charges are true. Instead, his ruling only determines whether the charges are a clear statement of the accusation (true or not) and whether those charges would constitute misuse of office ("malfeasance or misfeasance").

The judge who reviewed the recall petition immediately threw out two of the three charges. But he ruled that one charge was sufficient for the recall, that internships were offered improperly. The only "evidence" submitted at the hearing were articles from the Spokesman-Review.

Unfortunately for us all, in more than 90 articles and increasingly shrill editorials, the Spokesman-Review has twisted testimony and ignored facts that do not fit their view of this matter.

Let me give you an example from last week's newspaper. Their reporters read through hundreds of my e-mails, looking for a "smoking gun." They found nothing incriminating. Yet in one article, they reprinted private e-mails from people who had written words of encouragement to me -- for the sole purpose of publicly chastising them and hoping to embarrass them.

Then, in another article, headlined "West used city computer to make internship offer," the newspaper retold the tale they've told many times about how they hired a chat room imposter to pretend to be a young man.

The story says, "The online story progressed ... to an offer of an internship at the Mayor's office."

But a comparison of the full transcript with the published story shows how far the newspaper will go in its crusade against me. Remember, the Spokesman hired the imposter with the explicit purpose of trying to lure me into committing an illegal act.

The Spokesman edited the exchange to make it sound as if I had offered an internship to the young man -- instead of simply encouraging him to go through the application process.

It is commonplace to suggest to young people that they apply for internships, and every elected official I know has done it hundreds of times.

I wrote -- although the newspaper did not report it -- that I offered no guarantees: "You could also ask him to mail you an application form so that you can fill it out ... They may have all the positions filled for this spring so you should get on it if you are at all interested."

In the article, the Spokesman quotes its online imposter as saying, "Thank you so much for honoring me with this offer."

A full transcript shows he continues and concludes by saying, "I wanted to write and thank you for your e-mail and the opportunity to apply."

The full exchange shows that I encouraged a young man to apply for an internship but did not reveal my official position and did not in any way guarantee him that he would be chosen. At the mayor's office, there is a review procedure for all these unpaid internships, and I did not interfere in that process.

In an earlier story, the Spokesman-Review stated as a fact that I had offered jobs to another young man. However, if you read the transcripts of his interview, he is emphatic that no job was offered but only that he was encouraged to apply. It also said that I had met this young man online. The fact is I've known him for several years and had worked with him in another job, so I knew his experience.

This type of distortion is far from isolated. First, the newspaper wondered why police records from 20 years ago had been destroyed and implied that I would be named in those reports if they were still around. Then, when the reports turned up after a search and showed no mention of me, the newspaper wondered why they turned up suddenly.

When I was accused of visiting one of my accusers at the local jail, the newspaper doubted that the logs kept were accurate. When the Spokesman reported a decade's old hearsay statement that I had taken Morning Star boys on outings, the Boys Ranch responded emphatically that their own logs and records confirmed I hadn't. The truth is, I can't go into the Spokesman-Review building without signing in before a security guard. Why do they think that entrance into a jail or checkout at a juvenile residential facility is any less secure?

I wish I could write that there is not a shred of truth to the things that have been written about me in the Spokesman-Review. The problem is, there is a shred of truth, and the Spokesman-Review has shredded it into a hundred small pieces and rearranged it to fit their agenda and theories.

Yes, I exercised poor judgment and made mistakes in my personal life -- but nothing illegal and nothing unethical. Chatting online about sex with a person I believed to be 18 years old was wrong. Although it was a private conversation conducted on my personal computer in my home, I'm ashamed of it and embarrassed by it. I have apologized to the community and have sought forgiveness for my actions.

As I said, I'm embarrassed and ashamed, but my personal mistake need not be a public crusade to drive me from office and to stop the good work being done at City Hall. It also doesn't mean that I have to sit silently by while the facts are distorted.

My lawyers are confident that after an appeal to the Supreme Court, we will have a more accurate ballot statement to put before the voters for a fair recall election.

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