FBI May Probe Spokane Mayor

Federal agents are looking into accusations that Spokane's mayor offered municipal jobs to men he met in gay online chat rooms in exchange for sex — the latest allegations against the Republican official.

Mayor James West (search), who took a leave of absence on Tuesday, has been under fire since The Spokesman-Review reported allegations that he abused two boys while he was a sheriff's deputy and Boy Scout (search) leader in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

City officials also have launched an independent investigation into whether West offered internships in exchange for sex, and whether his office computer was used improperly.

West, a 54-year-old former state Senate leader and opponent of gay rights, has denied the molestation allegations but acknowledged he visited a gay online chat room and had relations with adult men.

The FBI's "public corruption" probe began last week, assistant U.S. attorney Thomas O. Rice told The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday. Agents were expected to interview two men who said they were independently offered City Hall jobs after online chats with West.

"The FBI has opened what's called a 'preliminary inquiry' to determine whether a full-blown investigation should occur," Rice said. "We can assure the public it's being looked at for possible violations of federal law."

West has not responded to requests for comment by The Associated Press since he announced he was taking a leave of absence to defend himself against the allegations.

Calls to the local FBI and U.S. attorney's offices were not returned Tuesday night.

The Spokesman-Review, The Seattle Times, two City Council members and a Democratic state Senator have called for West's resignation. Some gay activists also want him to step down.

"If all or any of the allegations of sexual misconduct are true, then the mayor should resign immediately," said Patrick Guerriero, president of the Log Cabin Republicans (search).