By Ryan Berry
DARKE COUNTY — A defamation lawsuit filed by Union City, Ohio Police Chief Mark Ater against former Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer has been resolved.
In a statement sent to the Daily Advocate, Chief Ater said, “The lawsuit has been resolved by mutual agreement and to the mutual satisfaction of the parties and I may make no further comment.”
The statement followed the publication of a letter to the editor from Spencer in the Versailles Policy on Nov. 2. In the letter, Spencer referenced his previous letter to the editor where he stated that he ran background checks, including criminal, civil and personal, to ensure that individuals were free from federal, state and local charges, as well as bad debts. In the letter, dated April 27, 2022, Spencer stated, “we have a candidate in this race that fails all these checks in a concerning way.”
In his most recent letter, Spencer wrote, “In that letter, I made reference to performing research on the criminal and personal backgrounds of the candidates. It was not my intention to state or imply in that letter that any candidate for Darke County Sheriff in the May 2022 primary election, including Mark Ater, had any criminal background that would disqualify him from holding office. On the contrary, as a former candidate and officeholder, I assume that if a candidate was placed on the ballot for sheriff, that person has no criminal history that would disqualify them from running or holding office. I apologize for any misinterpretation of my April 27, 2022 letter.”
At the time of the original letter, Ater was vying for the Republican nomination for Darke County Sheriff, a contest won by Darke County Sheriff Mark Whittaker.
After the letter appeared, Ater filed a defamation lawsuit against the former sheriff and declared his statements were “demonstrably false,” and “conflict with all criminal history checks, court records, and voting records.”
Spencer made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and countered, “This case involves a political candidate’s attempt to recover a financial windfall for his failed primary bid for Sheriff of Darke County, by blaming his election loss on an alleged single critical letter to the editor published in a local newspaper.”
Ater was originally seeking compensation of no less than $25,000 “plus punitive damages and reasonable legal fees.”
However, in a story that appeared in the June 23 edition of the Daily Advocate, Ater said, “I just want people to know it’s not about money, and it’s not about the election. It’s the fact that he [Spencer] stated lies, and it’s the principle.”
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].