Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Response to Spokane Mayor James West

On Tuesday, June 28, 2005, The Spokesman Review published a guest column by Spokane Mayor James West. Here is Whitecaps' response to the Mayor's statements in the column.

WEST: With over 92 articles, hundreds of column inches, thousands of words, several editorials and screaming headlines by The Spokesman-Review, people have a hard time remembering this simple fact: In our system a person is innocent until proven guilty.

WHITECAPS: The rebuttable presumption of innocent until proven guilty applies only to the person who is a defendant in a formal criminal proceeding. West is not entitled to that presumption until he has been indicted or charged in a criminal complaint.

WEST: The Spokesman-Review is not the judge or the jury, and its accusations are false.

WHITECAPS: West is partially correct. The Spokesman-Review is not judge or jury. If we accept West’s analogy to the criminal court system with West as accused/defendant, then the Spokesman-Review would more accurately be characterized as the prosecutor. The Spokesman-Review has presented its accusations and its evidence with such sufficiency as to shift the burden of proof back to West. But now that he’s heard the accusations and evidence, West wants to change the judge and jury. Rather than allowing Shannon Sullivan’s recall petition to stand or fall on its merit in front of the electorate serving as judge and jury, West and his lawyers have decided to seek a different court. West now wants the sufficiency of the accusations and evidence to be decided not by those to whom he appeals and who elected him, but by the Washington State Supreme Court.

WEST: I did not molest anyone, 25 years ago or ever, and I have not misused my official office for personal gain. I am certain the investigations now being conducted will show that I have done nothing that makes me unfit for public office.

WHITECAPS: West’s publicly and personally acknowledged conduct has already proven him unfit and unsuitable for public office. The purposes of the ongoing investigations are to determine if West violated city personnel policy or criminal law or both.

WEST: I look forward to the time when the City Council and The Spokesman-Review can turn their attention away from my private life and onto the pressing needs of the city. In City Hall each day that’s what I do as I continue to focus on the future of Spokane and work with our employees to deliver the best services possible for everyone. At the same time, I will continue to defend myself against falsehoods, using appropriate legal means.

WHITECAPS: West is intent on misconstruing his misconduct as mayor as being part of his private life. It was he, not the Spokesman-Review, that crossed the line between private life and official conduct.

WEST: Today my lawyers are filing an appeal to allow the state Supreme Court to review the recall petition filed against me. The citizens of Spokane deserve to know why I have decided to appeal. Simply put, it is because the charges are false, and the ballot statement they would vote on was improperly prepared and is prejudicial.

WHITECAPS: If the charges in Shannon Sullivan’s recall petition are false, West's lawyers are skilled enough to show that, and the voters of Spokane are intelligent enough to see it. It is West’s lawyers’ job to make his side of the story known to the electorate who would vote in the recall petition. Questioning the adequacy of the form and content of the ballot is appropriately the duty of the Spokane County Auditor. Putting that question to the State Supreme Court now would be premature since the ballot has yet to be prepared. If the ballot wording is prejudicial, it can be contested once it has been finalized.

WEST: A recall is unique in our court system: The judge makes no attempt to determine if the charges are true. Instead, his ruling only determines whether the charges are a clear statement of the accusation (true or not) and whether those charges would constitute misuse of office (“malfeasance or misfeasance”).

The judge who reviewed the recall petition dismissed two of the three charges. But he ruled that one charge was sufficient for the recall, that internships were offered improperly. The only “evidence” submitted at the hearing were articles from The Spokesman-Review. Unfortunately for us all, in over 90 articles and increasingly shrill editorials, The Spokesman-Review has twisted testimony and ignored facts that do not fit its view of this matter.

WHITECAPS: And after reviewing those charges, the judge ruled that one of the three charges could and should be put before the voters. It is not a question of law but a question of fact on which the voters will be asked to decide.

WEST: Let me give you an example from last week’s newspaper.

Its reporters read through hundreds of my e-mails, looking for a “smoking gun.” They found nothing incriminating. Yet, in one article, they reprinted private e-mails from people who had written words of encouragement to me – for the sole purpose of publicly chastising them and hoping to embarrass them into submission.

WHITECAPS: The determination of whether the content of the emails was incriminating rests with the voters. As for disclosing the contents of supportive emails, how does that hurt West? And to what and whom would the emails' writers be forced to submit after having their supportive emails disclosed?

WEST: Then, in another article, headlined “West used city computer to make internship offer,” the newspaper retold the tale they’ve told many times of how they hired a chat room impostor to pretend to be a young man.

The story says, “The online story progressed … to an offer of an internship at the mayor’s office.” But a comparison of the full transcript with the published story shows how far the newspaper will go in its crusade against me. Remember, the paper hired the impostor with the explicit purpose of trying to lure me into committing an illegal act.

WHITECAPS: The newspaper publicly reported that it hired a computer expert to try and accurately determine the true identity of the person corresponding with its expert. West has knowingly mischaracterized the newspaper’s stated intent and has tried to raise an entrapment defense. But the newspaper did not plant the idea of soliciting young men for sex online in West’s mind.

WEST: This newspaper edited the exchange to make it sound as if I had offered an internship to the young man – instead of simply encouraging him to go through the application process.

It is commonplace to suggest to young people that they apply for internships, and every elected official I know has done it hundreds of times.

I wrote – although the newspaper did not report it, that I offered no guarantees, “You could also ask him to mail you an application form so that you can fill it out … They may have all the positions filled for this spring so you should get on it if you are at all interested.”

In the article, The Spokesman quotes its online impostor as saying, “Thank you so much for honoring me with this offer.”

A full transcript shows he continues and concludes by saying, “I wanted to write and thank you for your e-mail and the opportunity to apply.”

The full exchange shows that I encouraged a young man to apply for an internship but did not reveal my official position and did not in any way guarantee him that he would be chosen. At the mayor’s office, there is a review procedure for all these unpaid internships, and I did not interfere in that process.

In an earlier story, The Spokesman-Review stated as a fact that I had offered jobs to another young man. However, if you read the transcripts of his interview he is emphatic that no job was offered but only that he was encouraged to apply. It also said that I had met this young man online. The fact is I’ve known him for several years and worked with him in another job so knew his experience.

WHITECAPS: Let the voters decide what West’s intent was and register their conclusions appropriately in their recall ballot.

WEST: This type of distortion is far from isolated. First, the newspaper wondered why police records from 20 years ago had been destroyed and implied that I would be named in those reports if they were still around. Then, when the reports turned up after a search and showed no mention of me, the newspaper wondered why they turned up suddenly.

WHITECAPS: The Spokane County Sheriff, Mark Sterk, stated unequivocally that the reports had been shredded. Sterk did not say the reports had “probably” been shredded or that it was common practice to shred or destroy such reports as part of a regular and ongoing practice of records destruction; Sterk said they had been shredded. Thus, when the “shredded” reports suddenly appeared, it is reasonable to question why Sterk had been so certain in his assertion. And West should certainly not object to the reports mysteriously appearing, because according to him, they support his story. The voters can draw their own inferences from the reports that magically reappeared from the shredder's teeth.

WEST: When I was accused of visiting one of my accusers at the local jail, the newspaper doubted that the logs kept were accurate. When The Spokesman reported a decade’s old hearsay statement that I had taken Morning Star boys on outings, the Boys Ranch responded emphatically that its own logs and records confirmed I hadn’t.

WHITECAPS: All West’s lawyers need to do is take sworn statements from the appropriate people at the Geiger correctional facility and get them to answer questions about West's alleged visits to the facility under the circumstances reported in the paper. Of course, once locked into a story by a sworn statement, any contradictory testimony in a trial would be subject to impeachment.

The Boy’s Ranch has now acknowledged that its logs were incomplete. Unless complete logging was an absolute and unwavering requirement, West cannot persuasively assert the absence of log records confirm he had never taken Morning Star boys on outings.

WEST: The truth is, I can’t go into The Spokesman-Review building without signing in before a security guard. Why do they think that entrance into a jail or check out at a juvenile residential facility is any less secure?

WHITECAPS: Perhaps the security officer at the Spokesman-Review is more diligent in visitor accountability and occupant control than the administrators of the Geiger facility or the Boys Ranch. Is West now inviting the Spokesman-Review to investigate the adequacy of the levels of security at the city’s jail and juvenile facilities?

WEST: I wish I could write that there is not a shred of truth to the things that have been written about me in The Spokesman-Review. The problem is, there is a shred of truth, and The Spokesman-Review has shredded it into a hundred small pieces and rearranged it to fit its agenda and theories.

Yes, I exercised poor judgment and made mistakes in my personal life, but nothing illegal and nothing unethical. Chatting online about sex with a person I believed to be 18 years old was wrong. Although it was a private conversation conducted on my personal computer in my home, I’m ashamed of it and embarrassed by it. I have apologized to the community and have sought forgiveness for my actions.

As I said, I’m embarrassed and ashamed, but my personal mistake need not be a public crusade to drive me from office and to stop the good work being done at City Hall. It also doesn’t mean that I have to sit silently by while the facts are distorted.

WHITECAPS: If West feels his own evidence is persuasive and the evidence against him is weak, then he should not fear having the voters of Spokane see and hear all the evidence and then decide if they still want him as Mayor.

WEST: My lawyers are confident that after an appeal to the Supreme Court, we will have a more accurate ballot statement to put before the voters for a fair recall election.

WHITECAPS: The wording of the ballot statement can and should be resolved fairly quickly with the County Auditor. Once the Auditor has decided the wording, then and only then might a court appeal be appropriate. The appeal to the Supreme Court is West’s attempt to delay the recall and improve his leverage in negotiating the financial terms of his departure.


Blogger green libertarian said...

Excellent counterpoint!

6:34 PM, July 07, 2005  
Blogger green libertarian said...

Excellent counterpoint!

6:34 PM, July 07, 2005  

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