Spokane City Council members Saturday said Mayor Jim West’s future should be left for him to decide.
“Whatever he feels like he should do, we feel should be based on what is in the best interests of the city,” council President Dennis Hession said. “And we also feel that this mayor will – when he makes that decision, it will be based on what is in the best interests of the city and not how it might affect us or him personally.”
“We do not hire and fire the mayor,” Hession said, “and that’s something we do not have any authority over.”
Many people believe the best interests of the city would be served by West resigning.
By Saturday evening, the newspaper’s Web site, spokesmanreview.com, had received 167 comments from readers around the country, many of whom called on West to leave office.
West, who underwent cancer treatment in 2003 and 2004, asked city employees to pray for him in a memo Thursday morning after The Spokesman-Review reported allegations of sexual misconduct by West in the late 1970s and early 1980s as well as improper use of his public office.
One reader wrote to the newspaper’s Web site: “Jim West claims he has taken to prayer since his cancer and asks that he be prayed for. Well, Jim, I am praying for you that you have the guts to resign and save our city from any more humiliation and what taxpayer dollars this will or has already cost us.”
News of the controversy has been reported widely, including segments Friday evening on national cable and broadcast television news shows.
“This makes me ill,” wrote another reader.
West, who was recently named to a presidential panel on strengthening America’s communities, has received limited support on the Web forum. “Let’s all sit back and relax and let the man do his job,” one person wrote, describing West’s performance in office as “awesome.”
On Friday, Spokane’s city attorney announced he would arrange an independent investigation outside the city Police Department to determine whether West violated city policy for Internet and e-mail use. Evidence from the newspaper investigation showed that West used his city computer to communicate with a fictional 18-year-old and that West directed his assistant to send the man an internship application.
Hession said he made a phone call to City Attorney Mike Connelly asking for an investigation. But, he said, a majority of City Council members are not ready to call for West’s resignation.
Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers said any investigation should also include allegations of sex abuse from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The council meets Monday night and is not expected to address the controversy through any resolution or formal proceeding. West’s removal from office would have to come through his own resignation or a recall petition and public vote.
It is not clear what sanctions, if any, could be brought against the mayor if an investigation substantiates wrongdoing, Hession said.
The council president said he had not had time to read all of the reports in the newspaper.
Councilman Bob Apple on Saturday came close to calling for a resignation. “If he’s abused his authority to solicit sex, yes, he should go,” Apple said. “We are still all stunned. I think the city is all stunned.”
Councilman Joe Shogan said, “I think it presents the mayor with a lot more challenge that he’s got to face, and as far as that goes he’s got to do what’s best for the city of Spokane.”
Councilman Brad Stark called the controversy a “test of leadership for the council and the city as we move forward and do the business of the citizens.”
In a related development Saturday, the Web site for the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts posted a letter to Scouting parents and volunteers outlining the efforts by Scouts to prevent child abuse. West stepped down Thursday as a member of the Scout executive board.
The letter, which was to be mailed out this week, also said that “appropriate steps” were taken to add West to the ineligible volunteer file held by the Boy Scouts of America.
Stark, who is employed by the Scouts, said any comments he makes about West are based on his role as a councilman and not as a Scout leader. “I don’t feel it’s my place to tell the mayor what he should or shouldn’t do,” Stark said.
Council members Mary Verner and Al French could not be reached Saturday for comment. Verner has yet to comment on the allegations.
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