Former Spokane Mayor In The Clear

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Federal officials on Thursday said they found insufficient evidence to charge former Mayor Jim West with abusing his office to meet young gay men over the Internet.

Mark Bartlett, an assistant U.S. attorney from Seattle who served as special prosecutor, said the nine-month public corruption investigation has been closed with no charges filed.

West, who was recalled from office in December by 65 percent of the voters, told a news conference later Thursday that the FBI investigation upheld his contention that he committed no crimes.

West, who says he has made some mistakes in his personal life but emphasizes that he did not commit any crimes, says he's pleased with the outcome of the investigation.

The former mayor also says he's unemployed and looking for a job. He says he may consider running for public office in Spokane again, but in the meantime he is moving forward with a lawsuit against the newspaper that broke the story that eventually led to his recall.

The FBI inquiry began in May, shortly after The Spokesman-Review reported the allegation that the mayor had offered city appointments and jobs to young gay men he met in an online chat room.

An investigator hired by the City Council concluded last November that West violated state law and city computer-use policies.

As part of the investigation, computers in West's office and home were seized, along with computer disks. Bartlett declined to say what was found on them.

"We did not attempt to determine whether Jim West should be mayor of Spokane. We did not attempt to judge whether his actions over the past several years were moral or correct," he said.

When the scandal broke in spring 2005, then-mayor West held a news conference and proclaimed himself a "law-abiding citizen," in an effort to hang onto his job.

He also sent an e-mail to city employees, West apologized for bringing embarrassment to the mayor's office. He also said he considered his private life off-limits.

West denies ever having abused the power of his office. He has said that he did have online relationships through the website Gay.com and considers those relationships to be private.

The 54-year-old West is a conservative Republican who led the GOP in the state Senate before he was elected mayor in 2003 in Spokane.

As an elected official, he opposed gay rights, abortion rights and teenage sex. He was married for about five years in the 1990s.