updated 5/11/2005 5:08:14 PM ET 2005-05-11T21:08:14

Mayor James West, the subject of an FBI probe into accusations he offered municipal jobs to men he met in gay online chat rooms, is complaining he is the victim of a “brutal outing.”

In an e-mail sent to nearly 140 people affiliated with a race relations task force, West wrote that the group is responsible for making Spokane a community where “harassment, intimidation, discrimination” are unacceptable.

“Does that include people who have an internal struggle with who they are sexually and are searching for a way to come out ... ?” wrote West, who is co-chairman of the task force. “Do others who desire to be out but are having similar struggles now live in greater fear because of a brutal outing?”

A copy of the e-mail was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

West, a 54-year-old Republican opponent of gay rights, has been under fire since The Spokesman-Review reported allegations last week that he molested two boys while he was a sheriff’s deputy and Boy Scout leader in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The newspaper also set up an online sting and found him visiting a gay online chat room.

The mayor denied the molestation claims but acknowledged he visited a gay chat room and said he had had relations with men. He announced Tuesday that he would be taking a leave of absence.

City officials are investigating whether West offered internships in exchange for sex and whether his office computer was used improperly. Also, the FBI has launched a preliminary investigation.

Mike Kress, vice chairman of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, suggested that West’s plea for understanding rang hollow because of West’s many votes against gay rights as a politician.

“The hypocrisy, cynicism and lies upon which Mr. West built his political career harmed homosexuals in our state, and his sexual orientation is thus a legitimate topic for discussion,” Kress wrote in an opinion piece in Wednesday’s Spokesman-Review.

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