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Embattled Spokane Mayor Loses Recall Vote

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

In other political news, the citizens of Spokane, Washington, have dumped their mayor of 27 years, Jim West. In a special election yesterday, West was ousted from office with 65 percent voting `yes' for his recall. James West had been accused in news accounts of child molestation and offering City Hall jobs to young men he met in Internet chat rooms. Earlier this week on the program we heard a report on the Spokane mayor from David Postman. He's chief political reporter for The Seattle Times. We've asked him to join us now with a follow-up.

And, Mr. Postman, thank you for coming back on the show.

Mr. DAVID POSTMAN (The Seattle Times): Oh, you bet.

BRAND: Any reaction today from the mayor?

Mr. POSTMAN: Well, he's going to have a press conference later today. He spoke to reporters in Spokane just briefly last night just to say, you know, `I said I would live by the will of the voters, and I will. I'm disappointed, but, you know, the voters have spoken.' So he's been pretty consistent in denying most of the wrongdoing and trying to defend himself and deflect this criticism. And I'm just not sure what he's going to say.

BRAND: Remind us again of the circumstances that faced him. This all came up after an investigative report from The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Mr. POSTMAN: Yeah. What happened was that The Spokesman-Review has been doing a lot of investigative work about sexual abuse allegations dating back decades having to do with a sheriff's deputy who was a friend of Jim West, and that's really what started this whole thing. After that story ran, they started getting tips and calls that said, `You really should look at Jim West.' Then sort of at the same time, by coincidence, somebody told them that a young man in Spokane had been chatting on Gay.com with somebody who he claimed to be the mayor. And at that point the paper decided to hire an undercover computer expert to try to determine if, in fact, the mayor was posing as somebody on Gay.com and in instant message chats, and they determined he was. And they published that story in May that talked about allegations of sex abuse dating back decades, about offering jobs to young men currently in his position as mayor and about this long, apparent secret life that he led.

BRAND: And this is a mayor who has come out publicly against gay rights bills.

Mr. POSTMAN: Yeah. He was a state legislator with a very consistent record voting against gay rights.

BRAND: So he denies he was on these Internet chat rooms?

Mr. POSTMAN: He does not deny that he was on the chat rooms. He's not confirmed all the allegations; some he sort of just let sit out there. What he denies is that he was misusing the power of his office in trying to entice these young men.

BRAND: Now he's also accused of the more serious charges of child molestation. Will he face any prosecution?

Mr. POSTMAN: No. It's all outside the statute of limitations, and from everything that I can tell and what the people at The Spokesman-Review say, there appears to be no investigations related to that. There is a related civil suit pending. One of the alleged victims has sued the county in regards to West's former partner on the sheriff's department. West has been named as a potential witness in that case but so far not even named as a defendant.

BRAND: So what happens now? He just goes quietly into the night, and he becomes a historical footnote?

Mr. POSTMAN: Yeah. I don't know. I--he told us on a piece earlier this week that this is what's keeping him alive. He has cancer, stage IV colon cancer. And a lot of people say that about him. You know, he is a survivor, but he's pretty sick. And fighting these allegations and, really, fighting the newspaper, he says, is what's been keeping him alive. There seems to be a concern on his part about, `What do you do when all of a sudden your life is pretty empty, you don't have a job?' I don't know that there's people lining up to offer this guy jobs. I don't know where he's going to end up.

BRAND: David Postman is chief political reporter for The Seattle Times.

Thank you very much.

Mr. POSTMAN: You bet.

BRAND: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Madeleine Brand. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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