May 8, 2005

Spokane Mayor Sex Scandal Makes New York Times

The Times has picked up a long-running story from the Spokesman Review on a sex scandal involving the mayor of Spokane, Washington (close to home). It seems this is all the Spokesman has been writing about for a week or two. There is a summary here. The Times interviewed a Gonzaga political science professor, Blaine Garvin, who said he was uneasy with the ethical implications of the investigation. Apparently the Spokesman has been tracking this story for years and finally hired a forensic computer expert who had worked with the feds on child pornography cases who posed as a 17 year old boy on the web-site gay.com and was propositioned by the mayor. He is also accused of molesting several boys when he was a scoutmaster years ago.

Now, the reason I've decided to pick this up is simply that a political scandal so close to home made the national news. It's rare for eastern Washington to be discussed in the New York Times (although over the past year there has been some controversy about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the gubernatorial election). The ethical implications of the mayor's actions (assuming he really did what they are saying he did) are obvious. He is clearly wrong on a number of levels, and this will not make for an interesting discussion. But what about the Spokesman Review's actions?

The Spokesman is clearly engaged in a mudslinging campaign, which is puzzling because it seems that they supported Mayor West's election. If the mayor is guilty of anything illegal, he should be investigated by law enforcement, not journalists. This kind of prying into the mayor's private sexual life is not something I like to see in the newspaper, particularly not with this "sting operation" they set up. Furthermore, this story appears to contain private information not fit to print based on a confession West made in confidence to a city council member, Cherie Rodgers. The fact that the mayor was using city computers makes it, to some degree, public business, but it remains unfit to print. It is part of a newspaper's proper role in electoral politics to give us the truth about our leaders, and if one of them is living a life that doesn't line up with his political stances, as Mayor West apparently is, we ought to know about it, but the Spokesman Review has overstepped its bounds here with a relentless smear campaign and an unconscionable invasion of privacy. The mayor should resign, and the police should investigate him for any criminal conduct, in case any of his "partners" were minors or were enticed by abuses of his authority as mayor, but the Spokesman also needs to cut the crap.

Posted by Kenny at May 8, 2005 2:13 PM
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