(Spokane, Wash.) Mayor James E. West, a Republican foe of gay rights, was accused in a newspaper story Thursday of molesting two boys decades ago and was caught by the paper using the trappings of his office to try to court a young man on a gay online chat room.To be more precise, he's a "law-abiding citizen" who conducts job searches through Gay.com.
West on Thursday denied the molestation allegations, but acknowledged he "had relations with adult men."
He admitted offering autographed sports memorabilia and a possible City Hall internship to what he thought was an 18-year-old man on the Web site Gay.com. The man was actually a private computer expert hired by The Spokesman-Review as part of a journalism sting operation.
West, 54, a former Boy Scout leader and Army paratrooper who was married briefly in the 1990s, denied that the online offers constituted abuse of his office, and he said he would serve out the more than three years remaining in his term.
"I am a law-abiding citizen," West said during a brief news conference. He took no questions.
The Spokesman-Review ran interviews Thursday with two men who allege West molested them decades ago when they were Boy Scouts and the mayor was a troop leader and sheriff's deputy. Both men have criminal records because of drug problems.Why do they always turn out to be public homophobes?
"I categorically deny allegations about incidents that supposedly occurred 24 years ago as alleged by two convicted felons and about which I have no knowledge," West said.
No criminal investigations are under way, according to sheriff and police departments, which said the statute of limitations for any charges has run out.
West, a conservative with an abrasive style and a fierce temper, rose to become majority leader of the state Senate during a two-decade legislative career. He consistently opposed efforts to expand civil rights protections for gays and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, a ban on gay marriage, in 1998.
During a 1990 hearing on AIDS education, West proposed that teen sex be criminalized.
In 1990, he proposed marriage from the floor of the Senate to Ginger Marshall while she was visiting the Capitol. Their marriage ended five years later.