June 22, 2005 in City

West used city computer to make internship offer

By and The Spokesman-Review
 

An e-mail released Tuesday in response to a public records request confirms that Spokane Mayor Jim West used his city computer to offer an internship to “Moto-Brock,” a man he met on a gay Web site who he believed was an 18-year-old high school student.

Moto-Brock was actually a forensic computer expert hired by The Spokesman-Review to verify West’s identity and his activities on Gay.com, a Web site where people hook up for conversation and sex.

The newspaper reported on May 5 that West used his position as Spokane’s mayor to entice and influence young men online by offering the trappings of his public office.

West has admitted offering a City Hall internship, sports memorabilia, trips and favors to Moto-Brock, but said he doesn’t view those offers as an abuse of his office.

Beginning on Feb. 19, West approached Moto-Brock in Gay.com, raising the topic of sex and his political and sports connections. The online conversations progressed to explicit online sex – and an offer in March of a City Hall internship.

The e-mails released Tuesday include a March 21 message to Moto-Brock from West. It reads, in part, “A friend of mine has asked if I would consider you for an internship in the Mayor’s office. He informs me that you are a high school senior at Ferris … If you are interested please contact Melissa Murphy in my office at 625 6250.”

In a March 27 response, Moto-Brock replies, “Thank you so much for honoring me with this offer.”

The exchanges are between Moto-Brock’s yahoo.com account and the mayor’s office, JWest@SpokaneCity.org.

Tuesday’s e-mail disclosure also yielded the first messages from Ryan Oelrich, the openly gay 24-year-old that West appointed to the city’s Human Rights Commission in April 2004. Oelrich is the executive director of Quest, a group for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth.

In a May 10 story, Oelrich told the newspaper that he didn’t know at first that West was the same person on Gay.com who was using the screen aliases “Cobra82nd” and “RightBi-Guy.”

But after his appointment to the Human Rights Commission, Oelrich said West repeatedly asked him for dates and offered him $300 cash to swim naked with him. Oelrich resigned from the commission in January after deciding it would be unethical to continue in the post.

Oelrich’s two e-mails to West were sent at 4:22 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on May 9 – the day before his accusations against West were to appear in The Spokesman-Review. Oelrich told West he hadn’t been able to sleep. He said West should resign and “have the courage to do what’s right.”

“I don’t condone what you have done and I believe you’ve made some serious mistakes, but I don’t hate you,” Oelrich said. “I do believe you need to step down as Mayor for the good of our community and for your personal health as well.”

“Don’t you dare give up,” he said in his second message. “Step down, apologize and pay for your mistakes and move forward.”

The latest batch of e-mails released at City Hall also shows that some of the city’s business leaders now calling for West to step down were offering him support shortly after the abuse of power and sexual misconduct scandal broke on May 5.

“You have my complete support,” wrote Jon Eliassen, president and chief executive officer of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council. “Great leaders persevere and survive.”

“You have been and are a great civic leader,” wrote Tony Bonanzino, chairman of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Most importantly, you have been and will always be a good person, a person I am proud to call friend.”

When asked on Tuesday about his apparent change of heart, Eliassen said at the time he didn’t have all the details about allegations against West. As more information came out and West admitted using his computer improperly, he concluded the mayor should resign. While he remains supportive of West personally, Eliassen doesn’t believe he can continue in office.

Bonanzino also said he still considers West a personal friend, and “it’s not in my character to turn my back on a friend.” But West’s admitted activities would be a problem for any top business executive and, while the mayor has done good things in the past, “I don’t see him having the ability to lead the community forward.”

The chamber called on West to resign on May 23, and the EDC followed suit the next day, but he refused, saying he was elected by voters, not the business community. On Monday, Bonanzino and Eliassen, and their organizations, joined the leadership of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau in a letter calling on West not to continue a court battle over a recall and let voters decide as soon as possible whether he should stay in office.

About half of West’s e-mails have now been released in response to public records requests from the newspaper and other media, according to City Attorney Michael Connelly.

The documents released Tuesday showed that West was deluged by e-mails as soon as The Spokesman-Review began publishing reports of the sexual misconduct allegations.

Some were warm notes of comfort from steadfast supporters, such as Jenny Gregory, who wrote “Hang in there, chin up, brighter days to come.”

“I know you have the fortitude to face and survive this,” wrote Jim Gotzian, a retired stockbroker and friend whom West appointed to the Human Rights Commission.

“My thoughts and prayers are with you through this difficult time,” wrote Brian Barbour, program director at Morning Star Boys Ranch.

Some were scathing denunciations from angry critics like Richard Kroll, who wrote “You are scum.”

“You deserve much worse than you’re getting! You’re a ‘gay uncle tom,’ ” wrote Thomas Hogshead.

“Please convey to our ‘distinguished mayor’ that he is one sick puppy … How I wish I could take back my vote,” wrote Jackie Waite, who wrote to West but noted she assumed staff would screen his correspondence.


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