SPOKANE, Wash. – The City Council voted Tuesday night to ask Mayor James E. West (search) to resign, hours after he told a national audience he would survive allegations that he offered city jobs to men he met online in gay chat rooms.
The vote was advisory. The mayor can only be removed from office by a recall election. A group of residents has begun circulating a recall petition.
The vote came after 90 minutes of sometimes emotional testimony during which supporters noted West had not been charged with any crimes. "Please don't hang the mayor in the city square," resident Marshall Smith said.
But the mayor's critics said the scandal had impaired West's ability to lead and was consuming too much civic time and attention.
"The city of Spokane (search) is consumed by this issue, both inside and outside of City Hall," council President Dennis Hession said.
Earlier Tuesday, West told a news show he expects to be exonerated by FBI and city investigations.
"The e-mails that are coming to me are in my favor not to resign. Stand your ground," West said. "They say, `If the allegations are true, you ought to go.' Well, they are not true."
The Spokesman-Review has reported allegations that West molested two boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s when he was a Boy Scout (search) leader, and that he offered gifts, favors and jobs at City Hall to young men he met online.
The mayor, 55, has denied those allegations but acknowledged having relations with adult men.
The former GOP majority leader in the state Senate also said Tuesday he was not being hypocritical when he opposed gay-friendly bills.
"I voted to represent my legislative district in the Legislature. I was not an advocate," West said. "I was not a leader of the charge in any of those cases. Every representative and every senator from my district voted the way I voted."
West has said he intends to serve the remaining 21/2 years of his term in this city of 200,000 people.