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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 13, 2005

Web site hook-ups put anti-gay mayor in hot water

 

Spokane, Wash.--Pressure is being put upon the mayor, an anti-gay former state legislator, to resign amid allegations that he offered city hall jobs to young men he met online and charges that he abused teens both as a sheriff and a scout leader.

Mayor James E. West took his first vacation in year on May 9 to organize a defense against a series of stories appearing in the daily Spokesman Review.

The paper�s investigation revealed that West offered city hall jobs and internships to young men he met on Gay.com as an enticement to have sex with him.

Far more damning are allegations about the mayor�s pursuit or abuse of teenagers, including accusations that he and a deputy abused underage boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

A former sheriff�s deputy, West first came to prominence in the 1980s as a state senator. He is a fiscally conservative Republican who opposed gay equal rights and abortion and once tried to make it illegal for anyone under 18 to engage in any sexual contact.

Although West acknowledges that he meets young men on the internet, he says that he wouldn�t characterize himself as gay.

Brad Crelia said that he was 15 when West, then Washington Senate minority leader, asked him out in 2001. Crelia was head of the student gay-straight alliance in his high school, which was temporarily holding classes in the same building as West�s district office.

However, Robert J. Galliher and Michael G. Grant Jr., now 36 and 31 respectively, said that they were molested by West when he was a Spokane County sheriff�s deputy in the 1970s.

Galliher also says that David Hahn, a fellow deputy and a friend of West, molested him as well.

While West denies those accusations, a man identified only as �Scott� by the Spokesman-Review said that in 1980, when he was 12, he was molested by Hahn while on a 50-mile Boy Scout hike.

Hahn and West were both Scout leaders.

Scott told the paper that he reported the abuse the following day to West and asked to be moved to another tent, but was told to �forget it.�

Hahn was told the next year to resign from the Boy Scouts or face the possibility of an investigation into reports of his pedophilia. He then went to his apartment and killed himself after molesting one of his victims for the final time, according to allegations.

West has denied molesting boys or having any knowledge of Hahn�s actions. He resigned from the board of the local Boy Scout council on May 5.

The investigation took its Internet turn last summer when an 18-year-old man told the paper he had sex with West after meeting him in an online chat room.

Another man, who is now 25, said the mayor offered to make him Spokane�s human resources director after meeting him online.

A third man, Ryan M. Oelrich, 24, was appointed to the city�s civil rights commission in April 2004. He later discovered that West was the "Cobra82nd" and "RightBi-Guy" he had met on Gay.com before he was hired. He left the position after fending off months of advances from the mayor.

The Spokesman-Review hired a former federal agent who is an expert in online child pornography to pose as a 17-year-old on Gay.com to see if the mayor would indeed offer him things in return for sexual favors.

The investigator first said he was 18 to be allowed onto the site, then later changed it to 17. West suggested they move their chat to AOL Instant Messenger, and the two chatted over the course of the coming months, with the mayor offering sports memorabilia and tickets, trips to Washington, D.C., help with college admissions and an internship in the mayor�s office.

When the investigator told the mayor that his 18th birthday had passed, West suggested meeting at a local golf course and emailed a photo and link to the city�s web site so he would be recognized.

The investigator did not go to the golf course, but three reporters from the paper did and saw the mayor there, waiting.

Before �turning 18,� the investigator reported engaging in cyber-sex with the mayor, who later told the newspaper, �We never had sex online. You�ve got words on paper.�

Calls for the mayor�s resignation have come from as close as his city council and as far away as Washington, D.C., where Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, had some pointed words for West.

�Three victims of Mayor Jim West�s predatory and appalling behavior have already come forward and, based on what we know about pedophiles, it�s almost certain there are many more,� Foreman said.

�Some media reports quote people as saying this is a �tragic� situation for West and imply that his conduct showed he was �uncomfortable with his identity,�� Foreman continued.

�Nonsense,� he concluded. �Pedophilic behavior is always wrong and has nothing to do with sexual orientation. This man--whether he�s straight, bisexual or gay--deserves nothing but scorn. He needs to resign immediately.�

The Spokesman Review and the Seattle Times have also called for West�s resignation.

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