OLYMPIA – Newspaper stories, without additional corroborating evidence, shouldn’t be enough to allow a recall election against Spokane Mayor Jim West, West’s attorneys said Friday in a brief to the state’s highest court.
The documents were in response to friend-of-the-court arguments filed recently by attorneys advising recall organizer Shannon Sullivan and by the Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County. Both are calling for a recall vote, although the neighborhood group says it has no position on whether the mayor should stay or go.
Friday’s paperwork was the final salvo before Wednesday’s state Supreme Court showdown in Olympia between Sullivan and West’s lawyers. West’s lawyers – Bill Etter and Carl Oreskovich – want the nine justices to deny Sullivan’s petition for a recall election.
Etter and Oreskovich say the newspaper “entrapped” West by hiring a computer expert to confirm a young man’s allegations that he’d met the mayor, then 53 years old, on a gay chat line and engaged in consensual sex. The newspaper’s expert went to the same Web site, posing as a soon-to-be 18-year-old. The mayor encouraged him to apply for a city internship.
“While Mayor West’s alleged conduct may be offensive to some, there is nothing illegal or wrongful about Internet dialogue between consenting adults,” West’s attorneys wrote.
Furthermore, they said, Shannon’s recall effort is based “primarily (if not exclusively)” on articles from the newspaper, “which reported and editorialized on the events and conduct it contrived and created.” Previous legal cases, they say, held that newspaper stories aren’t a reliable source of the facts required to support a recall election.
Allowing a citywide recall election based on the newspaper’s coverage, they said, “would be to accept and incorporate into law journalistic tactics and techniques widely criticized within the journalism profession.”
The newspaper – as Etter and Oreskovich noted – has defended its techniques, saying they were merited by the exceptional circumstances of the allegations against West.
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