Jim Spurlino, a candidate running for Ohio’s 8th District Congressional seat, was past due on his child support payments as recently as July and at one time was more than $24,000 behind in child support and spousal support payments, according to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court documents reviewed by this newspaper.
Spurlino’s attorney Christine Haaker denied that Spurlino paid his child support late.
“I can assure you that Mr. Spurlino has never been in arrears,” Haaker said in emailed remarks.
“It is obviously important to report when people do not satisfy their obligations,” Haaker said. “However, it would be a shame to falsely report such, particularly in the instance of people like Mr. Spurlino — who takes his obligations very seriously.”
A Republican from Washington Twp., Spurlino owns Spurlino Materials in Middletown. He is one of 15 Republicans, one Democrat and one Green Party candidate on the March 15 primary ballot running for the seat vacated by former House Speaker John Boehner. The district covers all of Butler, Clark, Darke, Miami and Preble counties and the southern part of Mercer County.
This newspaper reviewed Spurlino’s marriage dissolution court records after Spurlino’s Feb. 9 release of two YouTube videos accusing unnamed opponents of threatening to expose information from his divorce.
Haaker said she had reviewed Spurlino’s payment history and saw no sign of arrearages in July 2015 or in September 2000.
A marriage dissolution was granted to Spurlino and Abby Lynn Spurlino, now Abby Saul, in September 1999. They had two daughters, now ages 19 and 21. Saul could not be reached for comment.
Spurlino’s second marriage was dissolved in 2013 and he has remarried. He said at a candidate forum that he has eight children.
His Spurlino Materials and Bison Concrete LLC, both of Middletown, are each valued at between $1 million and $5 million, according to a financial disclosure report Spurlino was required to file with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives when he became a candidate. A value of $500,001 to $1 million is listed for a Middletown property owned by The Ongais Company LLC, which Spurlino incorporated in 2000.
Spurlino formed Spurlino Materials in January 2000 after leaving his job as vice president of Moraine Materials, where court records indicate he earned $240,000 annually. In March 2000, Spurlino asked that his child and spousal support obligations be reduced because he had no job.
Spurlino “suggests that he currently has absolutely no income,” wrote Montgomery County Common Pleas Domestic Relations Magistrate Christine Lobas Magee in a Jan. 29, 2001 decision and order. “The facts, however, suggest otherwise.”
She found that Spurlino’s annual income was at least $62,835 annually. His ex-wife, who had custody of both young children, was earning $19,387 annually.
A Child Support Enforcement Agency audit showed Spurlino owed $8,311.98 in overdue child support and $16,012.78 in overdue spousal support as of Sept. 30, 2000, according Magee’s order.
Magee noted that Spurlino’s income had declined since the marriage ended and cut his monthly child support payment to $592 per child from $1,435, but she declined to reduce his $4,000 monthly spousal support. She made the child support reduction retroactive to March 2000 and ordered him to pay $200 a month for the child support and spousal arrearages until they were paid off. A 2003 court document indicates the arrearages had been paid in full.
The July 22, 2015 court document showing an arrearage in child support does not indicate how far behind Spurlino was on payments, but Domestic Relations Judge Timothy D. Wood ordered that the arrearages be paid.
Haaker said the July 2015 court document was in error.
“I believe that the confusion comes from the fact that a form document is used for this entry,” she said in her email.
“While on the computer system it may have shown an amount in an arrears column when the amount was recorded and certain amounts were allocated between alimony, child support and fees, you can readily see that the ‘arrears’ amount reverses out immediately with the allocation,” Haaker wrote. “In other words, it was simply a recording function and no amount was actually not paid.”
She said a July 13 “income withholding for support” form for Spurlino, which Haaker emailed to this newspaper, shows he was not behind in his child support. It is, however, unclear if the document is accurate as it lists Spurlino as an employee of Southwest General Health Center of Middleburg Heights, which Haaker said is incorrect.
Haaker also provided a receipt dated October 1, 2015, indicating Spurlino was sent a check for $26.31 by the Child Support Enforcement Agency. “Final disposition of child support refund of over payment” is handwritten on the form she provided. The handwriting belongs to Spurlino, according to Haaker. She said he wrote the note after calling the Child Support Enforcement Agency and asking what the check was for.
Spurlino’s campaign manager J. Baylor Myers said Spurlino would have no comment beyond remarks made in the YouTube videos.
MORE: WATCH THE VIDEOS BY CLICKING HERE
“Recently, we received an anonymous envelope that threatened to ruin my reputation unless I drop out of the race for Congress,” Spurlino said in one video, with his wife, Tricia, sitting next to him. “Even though I’m happily married now, they threatened to reveal details from my prior divorce.”
Spurlino said the envelope “clearly came from one of our opponents’ campaign” and that an opponent had also been “stalking my 16-year-old daughter on social media.”
“These professional politicians must fear me,” Spurlino said. “I won’t be bullied. I’m not perfect, but I’ll be honest with the voters.”
Spurlino declined, through Myers, to release any details about the contents of the envelope, exactly what was done on social media or which opponents he was referring to.
Campaigns reached by this newspaper said they did not send the envelope and denied “stalking” anyone’s children. Those reached also declined to comment on the child support issues.
“I thought that his ad posed more questions than it answered and the fact that he’s providing no further comment just continues to add to the questions,” said Republican businessman Warren Davidson of Troy, who also is running for the 8th Congressional District seat. “It may be a strategy for his campaign.”
Doug Sachtleben, spokesman for the conservative Club for Growth Political Action Committee that has endorsed Davidson, also denied involvement in what he called “ ‘House of Cards’ stuff.”
“I think, in general terms, if candidates are going to make accusations there should be some substance to support those allegations,” Sachtleben said when asked about Spurlino’s remarks in the videos.
After the videos were released, the congressional campaign of State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, released a statement denouncing what Beagle called “political blackmail” and applauding Spurlino for standing up to it.
“This type of underhanded and deceitful behavior is exactly why people are so disgusted with politics — and I don’t blame them,” Beagle said in the press release. “Any candidate who associates themselves with consultants for special interest groups who would stoop to this level does not deserve our trust.”
Thomas Hagel, law professor emeritus at the University of Dayton, said laws prohibiting extortion, the legal term for blackmail, don’t seem to apply in this case although it is hard to judge without more information about what exactly was in the letter Spurlino said he received.
“It’s not extortion if you are talking about disclosing the truth. If that were the case, our political system would fold up in a day,” Hagel said. “My advice to him is if he really believes a crime has been committed just contact his county prosecuting attorney.”
Hagel also said simply contacting people on social media, even minors, does not constitute stalking.
According to Beagle campaign manager Danielle Vandegriff, it appeared someone using a Davidson campaign social media account had attempted to follow the state lawmaker’s children online. The campaign did not disclose which social media platforms were used.
“My wife and I are appalled that our children, and the children of my fellow Republicans in this race, would be subjected to online harassment by one of our opponents,” Beagle said.
Republican candidate J.D. Winteregg of Troy also said the Davidson campaign had followed or attempted to follow friends and family members on social media.
Davidson said his campaign does send friend requests and follows other campaigns online, just as other campaigns follow his, and seeks to connect with engaged voters through other people’s social media accounts.
“I think that’s exactly how social media works,” Davidson said.
He denied specifically targeting the minor children of candidates, but he said it is possible teenagers volunteering with his campaign have friended teenage children of other candidates. He said staff are not supposed to resend friend requests if they are rejected.
“We’ll take the information seriously and to see if anything is fact-based. It’s not something that would be representative of me nor the kind of campaign I want to run,” Davidson said.
Colton Henson, spokesman for the campaign for State Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Hanover Twp., said the candidate is focusing on running a positive, issue-oriented campaign, not Spurlino’s child support issues or his allegations on the YouTube videos.
“This sounds like a definite personal matter for Jim,” Derickson said. “It is hard to believe that the conversation in this race is focused on anything other than what is best for our country.”
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