OLYMPIA, Wash. – An unemployed mother fighting to remove Spokane Mayor James E. West (search) from office can start collecting signatures for her recall petition.
The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Shannon Sullivan's recall effort can proceed, meaning supporters can begin collecting the required 12,600 valid signatures following a five-day waiting period, said Sullivan's lawyer, Jerry Davis.
"All I wanted was for the people of Spokane to have a voice," Sullivan said after the ruling. "I don't want to sound pompous, but I knew I was right, and I knew if I stuck with my hard work and didn't let them intimidate me, justice would prevail."
West's attorneys had argued that the petition bearing a single abuse-of-office charge was factually and legally insufficient.
The mayor's lawyers said in a statement that "although we disagree with the outcome, we respect the court's decision. As to the basis for the court's ruling, we'll await their written opinion."
Sullivan filed the petition in May, shortly after The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane published articles detailing how West had met men online for sex.
The recall petition alleges that West used his elected office for personal gain — specifically, that he wrote a recommendation letter to help someone he believed to be an 18-year-old man get a City Hall internship. The teen turned out to be a computer forensics expert hired by the newspaper as part of a journalistic investigation.
Sullivan contends the recommendation implied that the man would get an internship in exchange for sexual favors.
The five-day waiting period to collect signatures raised questions about whether the petition could be completed in time for the regularly scheduled November election.
Spokane County Elections Supervisor Paul Brandt said his office would have to receive the petitions no later than Friday to verify the signatures and take other steps to get the recall on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Davis disputed that, saying the measure could still make the November ballot even if signatures were turned in beyond the Friday deadline. He noted that a separate recall election would cost an estimated $2.1 million.
The Spokane City Council has unanimously called for West to resign, but Councilman Joe Shogan said the recall election is a good alternative.
"The people of the city who elected the mayor will now have the power to decide if he remains in office," Shogan said. "It's an opportunity for the people to be heard on the matter.