SPOKANE, Wash. -- Mayor James E. West, a Republican foe of gay rights, was accused in a newspaper story yesterday of molesting two boys decades ago and was caught by the paper using the trappings of his office to try to court a young man on a gay website.
West yesterday denied the molestation allegations, but acknowledged he ''had relations with adult men."
He admitted offering autographed sports memorabilia and a possible City Hall internship to what he thought was an 18-year-old man on the website Gay.com. The man was actually a private computer specialist hired by The Spokesman-Review as part of a journalism sting operation.
West, 54, a former Boy Scout leader and Army paratrooper who was married for five years in the 1990s, denied that the online offers constituted abuse of his office, and he said he would serve out the more than three years remaining in his term. ''I am a law-abiding citizen," he said at a brief news conference. He took no questions.
The Spokesman-Review ran interviews yesterday with two men who allege West molested them decades ago when they were Boy Scouts and the mayor was a troop leader and sheriff's deputy. Both men have criminal records because of drug problems.
''I categorically deny allegations about incidents that supposedly occurred 24 years ago as alleged by two convicted felons and about which I have no knowledge," West said.
No criminal investigations are underway, according to sheriff and police departments, which said the statute of limitations for any charges has run out.
During a two-decade legislative career, West rose to become majority leader of the state Senate. He opposed efforts to expand civil rights protections for gays and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, a ban on same-sex marriage, in 1998. During a 1990 hearing on AIDS education, West proposed that teen sex be criminalized.
The newspaper said its investigation of West arose from tips received in 2002 during its investigations of sexual abuse of children by priests. It hired a computer specialist to create a fictitious identity as an 18-year-old man to chat with West, who used the online aliases ''Cobra82nd" and ''RightBi-Guy" to chat on the website. West was in the Army's 82d Airborne.
West said he would not characterize himself as gay. As for his visits to the Gay.com website, he told the newspaper: ''I can't tell you why I go there, to tell you the truth, . . . curiosity, confused, whatever, I don't know."