The Washington State Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a judge's ruling that a recall petition against Spokane Mayor Jim West can proceed...

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a judge’s ruling that a recall petition against Spokane Mayor Jim West can proceed.

Just hours after lawyers for West argued that the petition by Shannon Sullivan was factually and legally insufficient, the high court affirmed a lower-court ruling that the document bearing a single abuse-of-office allegation could proceed to signature gathering.

Sullivan filed her recall petition in May, shortly after The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane published a series of articles detailing how West — a conservative Republican, former state senator and longtime gay-rights opponent — had been meeting men online for sex.

Her petition alleges that West used his elected office for personal gain — specifically, that West 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 Spokesman-Review.

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Sullivan contends that the recommendation was inappropriate because of the possible implication that the man would get an internship in exchange for sexual favors.

West has acknowledged having relationships with adult men, but denies any misuse of office. He has not been charged with a crime, but the FBI is investigating.

Sullivan’s lawyer, Jerry Davis, said he was thrilled with the ruling, but hoped a recall election wouldn’t be necessary.

“What would be nice would be if the mayor would do the right thing and resign,” Davis said. “If he had any character whatsoever, that’s what he’d do.”

West’s office referred reporters to the mayor’s lawyers, Bill Etter and Carl Oreskovich, who said in a statement: “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. Mayor West will continue to perform his duties and responsibilities as he has throughout this process, and we will continue to advance and protect his interests.”

The ruling means recall supporters can begin collecting signatures immediately.

Spokane County Elections Supervisor Paul Brandt said it would be very difficult to get the required 12,600 valid signatures in time for an election this fall.

Brandt said the elections office would have to receive the signed petitions no later than tomorrow, because it will need four weeks to verify them and take other steps necessary to get the recall on the Nov. 8 ballot.