Cloverdale Mayor Judd Spencer during his swearing-in ceremony, Dec. 2011 - Putnam Sentinel
Cloverdale Mayor Judd Spencer during his swearing-in ceremony, Dec. 2011. (file photo)

CLOVERDALE — Judd Spencer, Mayor of Cloverdale, has not attended a council meeting since May of 2018. Or, to state this another way, Spencer has not attended a meeting, or acted, it seems, in any capacity as Mayor since domestic violence charges were filed against him on May 8, 2018.

The remaining members of council patiently waited for the legal process to take its due course. In addition to his misdemeanor domestic violence and weapons charges, the indictment against Spencer also included a felony violation for carrying a concealed weapon.

Prosecutors dropped that charge as part of a plea agreement. Spencer entered a guilty plea on Oct. 24, 2018 for the misdemeanor charges and was sentenced for the same on Nov. 27, 2018. While this resolved the legal issues for Spencer, it was not a satisfactory conclusion for Cloverdale.

That’s because anyone with a felony conviction in the State of Ohio cannot serve in an elected position. And, Spencer had already ignored at least one written request by the remaining members of council for him to resign. This, despite his official address now being in Holgate, outside of Putnam County, according to court documents.

Spencer’s abandonment of Cloverdale has not been without consequence.

According to council members, the Village of Cloverdale had won a grant to help pay for the cost of new playground equipment. The amount was $8,000, or 80 percent of the $10,000 cost of the equipment. The organization which granted the money sent the check to Spencer’s attention by registered mail. It was delivered to the PO Box at the post office, and there it sat.

After not being collected for a period of time, the post office, as is policy, returned the mail to its sender. The organization which granted the money then sent the check again. And again, it sat uncollected and was eventually returned.

There was no third try. When contacted by village officials, the organization informed them of what had occurred, and that the money had since been reallocated to a different project. The village then had to pay the entire cost of the new equipment out of its general fund, an expense it had not anticipated.

“If you look under the revised code for powers and duties of a Mayor,” said Elizabeth Smith, Cloverdale’s Solicitor, at the village’s first meeting of the year, “He has the duty to, ‘Make sure that the laws and ordinances are enforced, to make sure and recommend measures to the council for adoption, keep the council fully advised of the financial condition and future needs of the municipal corporation, prepare and submit to council such reports as are required, appoint competent persons to examine, without notice, the affairs of any department, perform such other duties as the council determines by ordinance or resolution.’ ”

Clearly, it can be inferred, Spencer is not fulfilling any of the duties so allocated to him as Mayor of Cloverdale. This, according to Smith, gives the village two choices.

The village can ask a probate judge to declare the position vacated due to malfeasance on the part of Spencer. Typically, this avenue is pursued in matters of financial impropriety, and not for being an absentee mayor. While the most recent audit of the village, which was also released in May of 2018, indicates some degree of financial mismanagement, it remains unknown whether or not this rises to a level of criminality.

The village may also circulate a petition to recall Spencer. Only 19 signatures would be needed to place a recall question on the next ballot. Once such a petition is submitted to the Board of Elections, they then send Spencer a letter informing him of the recall. He then has five days to resign, or face a recall election.

Council debated pursuing both options simultaneously. They chose to send a letter to Spencer by certified mail detailing their options and asking him again to resign. They weren’t confident he would even accept the piece of certified mail, which Smith said would only aid their argument of malfeasance.

Time may provide its own resolution. 2019 represents Spencer’s final year in office. One way or another, Cloverdale will have a new Mayor in 2020.