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Sullivan asks West help in appointment

By Jim Camden and Mike Prager The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Mayor Jim West has battled for nearly six months against Shannon Sullivan, sponsor of a recall election against him.

Now, Sullivan is asking West for an appointment to the city’s Human Rights Commission, and the mayor is considering it.

The two adversaries had a chance meeting Monday outside West’s office at City Hall. Both reported having a civil conversation.

Sullivan went there to fill out an application for the unpaid Human Rights position because, she said, she wants to make a difference in Spokane.

The mayor was returning to his office. Sullivan was in the reception area when West walked up behind her. Sullivan turned and was startled for a moment, according to a West staffer.

The two had never met, although Sullivan faced West’s attorneys in a series of highly charged court hearings that cleared the way for her successful petition drive to put the recall on the Dec. 6 ballot. West stayed away from the courtroom as his lawyers ran up $85,000 in legal fees.

“He was really very nice and very cordial and not at all condescending,” Sullivan said. “And I would never be condescending to him because he is still the mayor.”

West said he told Sullivan he thought she had been used by his political enemies, and Sullivan told hin the recall wasn’t personal.

Sullivan expressed concern that the mayor might refuse to take her application, but West said he would accept it. Sullivan said she didn’t have a college degree. The mayor told her that wasn’t a prerequisite, but he would not appoint her if she was pursuing a political agenda. He also told her she has proven she’s capable of organizing people.

“We’ll consider her,” West said Tuesday.

The Human Rights Commission currently has at least four vacancies, including one left open when former Vice Chairman Mike Kress resigned in protest over the handling of a sexual harassment complaint against West stemming from the mayor’s appointment of a young gay man to the commission at the same time the mayor was pressuring him for sex.

Last month, the commission ruled West behaved inappropriately and violated community mores in his dealings with former Commissioner Ryan Oelrich – but didn’t find discrimination and didn’t call for West to resign.

The recall against West accuses him of using his office for personal benefit in seeking a relationship with another man he believed to be 18 at the time.

Currently, the mayor’s office has four applications for openings on the commission. Karen Stratton, the mayor’s senior adviser, will interview each, and submit the applications and a summary of the interviews to the mayor, who makes the appointments subject to City Council confirmation.

Many people simply mail their board or commission applications to City Hall, but Sullivan said she wanted to drop it off in person as a matter of respect, and West told her he appreciated that.

He asked if she could remain unbiased and impartial on commission matters, and she assured him she could, Sullivan said.

“I told him ‘I’ve never criticized you in public, I’ve tried to keep (the recall) about letting the people decide,’” Sullivan said. “He said ‘We’re both for the people.’ “

West also told her the job was unpaid and not political. Sullivan said she told him that was good, because in her opinion, “politics stinks.”

That was one of their rare points of disagreement. West told her politics are his passion.

Sullivan said she believed the mayor when he said her application would get serious consideration. “He was very nice about it, and I was really appreciative,” she said.

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