By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 10/14/16 – 4:30 PM PDT |

West Covina Councilman Mike Spence has battled alcoholism and drug abuse for more than 20 years, he said during a recent interview when confronted about a DUI he pleaded guilty to in 1998.

The revelations may place Spence’s future with San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman, for whom he is chief of staff, in question.

Spence, 50, ran for 55th District state Assemblyman this year, but he came in third in the June primary. He has been candid in admitting to his alcoholism and use of methamphetamine and cocaine, and said he has attended 12-step programs including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

He has even admitted to having blackouts.

In February 1998, Spence pleaded guilty in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga to one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol, court records show.

“I never claimed to be perfect,” Spence said in a recent telephone interview. “That was something that happened 20 years ago.”

On June 12, Spence crashed his rented Hyundai Accent into a utility pole near the intersection of Azusa Avenue and Cypress Street in Covina. Police determined he was driving under the influence of an illegal drug — methamphetamine. A toxicology report revealed there was no alcohol in his system.

Spence was charged Sept. 26 with one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of a drug, a misdemeanor. He is scheduled for arraignment Thursday in West Covina Superior Court.

Per the terms of his 1998 plea agreement, Spence was ordered by Superior Court Judge Michael J. Welch to attend a county-approved alcohol program, pay a fine of $1,224, and serve three years probation. He was granted a restricted driver’s license allowing him to drive to and from work and to his alcohol treatment program, court records show.

In California, prior misdemeanor convictions older than 10 years are not alleged in a defendant’s new misdemeanor filing, according to Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

“That said, there were no prior previous convictions listed in the current misdemeanor complaint against Michael Spence,” Ardalani said in an email.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman said in a telephone interview he was unaware of Spence’s 1998 DUI conviction, and previously stated he was unaware of Spence’s longtime struggle with addiction. He said he did not meet Spence until 2007, during his campaign for state Assembly.

Hagman appointed Spence as his chief of staff when he was elected 55th District state Assemblyman in 2008, then kept him on as his chief of staff when he was elected Fourth District county supervisor in 2014.

“I do believe in people starting anew,” said Hagman, adding that Spence, in the 10 years he has worked for Hagman, has always been an exemplary employee.

“In the (state) Assembly, we’d do independent assessments of each office’s operations, and my office always came in at number one,” Hagman said.

Spence suffered severe injuries including a broken back, hip, femur, and ribs in his June 12 accident. He has been recovering ever since. He still claims to have no recollection of the day of his accident, and while he has admitted to having blackouts in the past, he could not say if his accident was a drug-induced blackout, as he has not been provided a copy of the accident report as he has requested.

“The hospital told me blackouts in car accidents happen all the time,” Spence said.

Spence’s admissions regarding his addictions have sounded an alarm with Hagman.

“It definitely raises concerns,” Hagman said. He said the county has good health benefits and other resources available, which he encourages Spence utilize.

“We wish him a speedy recovery, and to address those demons that he’s facing,” Hagman said. He said it is still too soon to say if he will retain Spence as his chief of staff.

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