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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

West stall would reveal priorities

The Spokesman-Review

Jim West is a savvy politician, and now that the scandal has moved into that arena, it will be interesting to see how he responds. Will he act to save his hide, or humbly step back and let citizens make the call?

On June 13, Judge Craig Matheson ruled that a recall effort against the mayor could move forward, but petitions cannot be circulated until West decides whether he will file an appeal. He’s already waited so long that if he does challenge the ruling, the matter will likely be put on hold until fall, because the state Supreme Court is in recess from July 1 until Sept. 12.

The mayor’s political fate is the most important matter facing the city. Not much will get done until that is decided. The longer he delays his appeal decision, the more it looks like he’s interested in gaming the system rather than abiding by the voters’ wishes.

The recall hinges on one simple issue: malfeasance by soliciting “for young men for his own personal uses.” The judge ruled that there are enough facts to present that question to voters.

When business leaders and the Spokane County Republican Party asked West to resign, he replied that the voters’ decision to place him in office should not be “lightly overturned.”

“In a recall, if the voters say Jim West should go, Jim West will gracefully go,” he said on June 3.

Keying on that theme, business leaders last week urged West to forgo an appeal: “We ask you to honor your word by allowing the voters to express their opinion in the electoral process. While not perfect, the recall process will allow people to hear and consider your perspective and vote on whether you should continue in office.”

West’s attorneys called that statement premature because they were still reviewing the judge’s decision. But it’s their tardiness that is the problem. West’s legal team has had plenty of time to review a fairly simple ruling. Compare that with what was expected of non-attorney Shannon Sullivan, who filed the recall petition.

On June 8, she was handed a 14-page document from West’s attorneys challenging the basis for her claims. The judge gave her five days to digest that material and prepare a response. Surely, multiple attorneys steeped in the law don’t need 13 days (and counting) to review a short transcript of the judge’s decision.

If the mayor wanted to appeal the decision, he should’ve done so in a timely fashion. At this point, if he does so, it will look like a strategic move to shelve the matter for the summer and prolong his stay in office.

He could legally do that, but the community needs to debate and decide this matter now so it can move on. West’s decision will speak volumes about his priorities.

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