Spokane City Attorney Mike Connelly on Monday named a fifth member to an independent panel that is being asked to investigate Mayor Jim West and his use of city computers and an internship program to solicit dates from young gay men.
Nancy Isserlis, a principal attorney with Winston and Cashatt Lawyers, of Spokane, joins four men who were appointed by Connelly last month to the five-member panel.
The investigators are being asked to review a large volume of e-mails and other information taken from West’s computer following publication of an investigative story by The Spokesman-Review beginning on May 5. The city probe will determine whether the mayor violated city policy.
A separate preliminary inquiry is being conducted by the FBI to determine whether West misused his office by offering gifts, favors and City Hall positions to young men he met through Gay.com. One of the men was actually a computer analyst hired by the newspaper to confirm that the mayor was seeking dates from teenage men over the Web.
The newspaper report also included allegations by two men that West abused them sexually when they were boys and West was a deputy sheriff and Boy Scout leader in the 1970s. West denies those allegations, but he acknowledged having relationships more recently with young men.
A recall petition filed by a North Side woman is scheduled for a hearing before a visiting judge in Spokane County Superior Court on Wednesday.
Shannon Sullivan said she plans to pursue her petition even though some legal experts believe it does not sufficiently specify charges against West. Sullivan confirmed that she was advised to withdraw the petition by some people who are calling for West to resign.
“I’m sticking it out until Wednesday,” she said. “It’s up to the judge.”
Under state law, the judge must rule on the sufficiency of the charges in the petition and the adequacy of the ballot synopsis.
Shaun Cross, an attorney and former Republican congressional candidate who was one of the first community leaders to call for West’s resignation, said Sullivan’s petition may not be strong enough to survive the judicial hearing.
“I’m not sure this particular petition is quite there yet,” he said, but he declined to specify its weaknesses.
State law says that officials can be recalled only for illegal or improper actions or violations of their oath of office.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before there will be a proper basis for a petition to be filed with the court,” Cross said.
Cross urged the city attorney’s office to expedite its investigation so that the city can resolve the West controversy. “It doesn’t benefit anybody to let this thing drag on,” Cross said.
Connelly said he is asking the investigative panel to determine how often it will meet and how long it will take to reach findings. “I’ve told the committee they need to meet and set their own schedule,” Connelly said.
Connelly previously said it was important to have at least one woman on the panel.
Isserlis graduated from Gonzaga University Law School in 1980. She has a bachelor’s degree from Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore.
She joined Winston and Cashatt in 2004 after having worked for five years as regional directing attorney for Columbia Legal Services’ office in Eastern Washington. Before that, she was in private practice in Spokane, working primarily on bankruptcy and commercial law.
Her resume includes a long list of volunteer posts. She has worked as a guardian ad litem. She was chair of the board for Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute on an appointment in 1998 by Democratic Gov. Gary Locke. She is also chair of the board of Spokane Neighborhood Action Program. Isserlis was a 2004 recipient of the Smithmoore P. Myers Professionalism Award from the county bar association.
She joins retired judges Philip Thompson and Harold “Pete” Clarke and educators Tom Trulove of Eastern Washington University and J. Michael Stebbins, director of the Gonzaga University Institute of Ethics.
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