A stream of e-mails – many angry and vulgar, some supportive – poured into City Hall from around the nation in early May after The Spokesman-Review published stories about Mayor Jim West’s dual life as an anti-gay politician who offered jobs and other perks in exchange for sexual favors to young men he met on the Internet.
The media got a first look at the vociferous reaction on Tuesday, when city attorneys released some of West’s e-mails in response to the newspaper’s May 6 public records request.
Only about 20 percent of the 12,000 documents the newspaper and other media outlets are seeking were released Tuesday because attorneys are still reviewing the e-mails for privacy and other issues, said City Attorney Mike Connelly. The city turned all the West-related e-mails from 44 computer databases into hard copies and is charging 15 cents a page for reproducing them.
One set of e-mail exchanges that may be “personal in nature” between West’s executive assistant and a former city employee will be released Friday unless West goes to court to object, Connelly said in a letter to the newspaper this week.
In contrast, the Washington state Senate is responding to the newspaper’s request for all of West’s Senate e-mails with no redactions and is delivering the e-mails on a searchable computer disk this week. West was given a chance to review those e-mails, said Senate Counsel Mike Hoover.
West’s habit of searching the Internet for young men was disclosed by the newspaper on May 5 – after the mayor offered a City Hall internship and trips to Washington, D.C., this spring to someone he thought was an 18-year-old Ferris High School senior.
The teenager, who went by the screen name Moto-Brock on Gay.com, was actually a forensic investigator hired by the newspaper to verify West’s online identities as Cobra82nd and RightBi-Guy.
West is also accused of molesting two young boys in the mid-1970s when he was a Boy Scout troop leader on Spokane’s South Hill and a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy – charges he denies.
Some of the angriest reaction in May came from people who contrasted West’s record of sponsoring anti-gay rights legislation in Olympia as a powerful Republican politician with his secretive sexual conduct with young men. Nearly 60 e-mails released Tuesday, all from early May, were running 3-to-1 against West. Phone logs kept by the city for early May show 42 calls against West and 35 in support of the mayor.
Some who called, like Bernie Lucas of Spokane, urged the mayor to take a leave of absence until the allegations against him are resolved. Others called him an “evil, sick hypocrite” and urged him to resign.
“I would like the mayor to resign. If not, he needs to be fired,” said Debbie Turcott.
Other callers urged West to stay put.
“We think it is despicable, what the newspapers have done. We have been behind him all the way,” said Linda and Theron Rust of Spokane.
Many e-mails from around the country urged West to resign immediately.
“You are a hypocrite extraordinaire. Your career is shot,” wrote Melissa Walters and Bob Back from an e-mail address in Maine.
“You acknowledged that you have offered political favors to young men with whom you either did or hoped to have sexual relationships with. This is called an abuse of power,” wrote Donald Boothby of Seattle.
“As a gay man in a committed relationship, your actions sicken me. You are a perfect example of how NOT to express your natural sexual tendencies. Shame on you for your politics of hatred and your hypocrisy,” wrote Paul Carver of San Francisco.
“Your gay.com profile indicates that one of your best features is your heart. I didn’t know conservatives actually had hearts,” wrote Dave Cutler of Tampa Bay, Fla.
“The worst kind of person is one who condemns others for what he himself is. Shame on you for setting gay rights back years,” wrote Jim O’Brien of Kansas City, Mo.
SingleLittleRock, writing from an aol.com account, told West: “There exists a videotape of you….It is more than ten years old, but very clear. Good luck serving 3 more years, HA!”
David G. Luders, Scoutmaster of Troop 171 in Spokane, also wrote West on the afternoon of May 5, the day the newspaper stories were published. He chastised the mayor for his conduct.
“Since I’m an Eagle Scout too, I suggest that you turn in Your Eagle Scout Award, or burn it…Your schedule should get somewhat lighter, since there won’t be any youth groups visiting you any more! Why don’t you do the ‘honorable’ thing, and RESIGN as mayor?”
Earlier that day, Luders also e-mailed Boy Scout Executive Director Tim McCandless to demand West’s resignation from the executive board of the Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts. West resigned that day.
Others sent e-mailed words of support to West, the documents show.
“Hang in there and keep your chin up….most of this storm will blow over in a week or so and you can get the City back to business,” said Spokane public relations executive Ed Clark in a May 6 e-mail message.
About 60 of Spokane’s 1,900 city employees wrote from City Hall, responding with supportive words to two mass e-mails West sent after the newspaper stories were published. In the first, West apologized for bringing “shame” to the city and said he was sorry for “the embarrassment my lack of judgment may cause you.”
“Mr. Mayor – hang in there – the local fishwrap is out to sell papers, and you’re out to serve citizens,” wrote Rocky Treppiedi, the city’s risk manager and a member of the Spokane Public Schools’ Board of Directors.
“I have seen 4 mayors come and go and wanted to let you know that you are without question the best damn Mayor I have seen walk through the front doors of City Hall….NOTHING that has occurred in the past week has diminished that respect and pride one single iota,” wrote Tom Kestell, the city’s database administrator.
“I have never worked with a more devoted, capable and principal centered leader in my lifetime and I have seen those qualities manifest themselves in the Mayor’s deepest regard and concern for all us here at the City. I am very hopeful that the Mayor’s continuing devotion to each of us and to our community may now be reciprocated,” wrote Gavin Cooley, the city’s chief financial officer, in a May 5 e-mail to others in his division.
Others from around the country reacted negatively to West’s May 10 e-mail to nearly 140 community members affiliated with a race relations task force in which he complained he’d been the victim of a “brutal outing” in the newspaper.
“How dare you accuse a newspaper of ‘persecution’ when it is YOU who have persecuted gay people for at least two decades with YOUR Nazi legislation that treads on equal protection under the law!” wrote Steve Hammer.
“You have a lot of nerve, claiming to be the victim of a ‘brutal outing,’ ” wrote Scott Schmidt of San Francisco, who described himself as an openly gay man. “You have promoted an anti-gay agenda at the expense of others just for political gain.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.