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West Covina's mayor resigns ceremonial post in wake of police investigation into possible drug use

West Covina's mayor resigns ceremonial post in wake of police investigation into possible drug use
Costa Mesa police said they are investigating an incident involving West Covina Mayor Michael Spence. (City of West Covina)

West Covina Mayor Michael Spence has resigned from his largely ceremonial post amid a police investigation into possible drug use.

Spence, 51, told the City Council on Thursday night that he would relinquish his mayoral role on June 1. But council members later voted to make his resignation effective immediately.

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Spence's troubles began on May 4 when Costa Mesa police responding to a medical-aid call at a hotel in the 2000 block of Newport Boulevard shortly after midnight found two people, one of whom was Spence, with "controlled substance items," police said. Spence was unconscious.

He was not arrested and no charges have been filed against him. Costa Mesa police are continuing to investigate and are expected to turn their findings over to the Orange County district attorney's office.

On Thursday, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune published audio of the 911 call.

A woman who says she is a friend of Spence's tells a dispatcher that she thinks he "may have overdosed," according to the audio. She says she believes he overdosed on heroin because he has used it in the past and that she saw a syringe nearby.

Spence's term as a councilman ends in December. He said at Thursday's meeting that he plans to serve out his term.

"I will not be resigning from the City Council," he said at the meeting, according to video posted by a San Gabriel Valley Tribune reporter. Spence was elected to the City Council in 2013.

Asked if he will run for reelection in the fall, Spence told The Times in an email Friday that he is "taking things a day at a time."

He also said he is in a recovery program for chemical addiction.

"I have been, and I am still in, and will always need to be in, recovery programs," he said in an email.

Spence pleaded guilty in 2016 to a misdemeanor DUI charge stemming from a crash in June that year that put him in a hospital with serious injuries. Authorities said he had methamphetamine in his system when his rental car slammed into a utility pole.

He was sentenced in December 2016 to three years' probation and was ordered to complete a three-month alcohol and drug education program, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.

Twitter: @jpanzar

UPDATES:

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1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with new information about Spence's resignation from his mayoral post.

This article was originally posted at 8:15 a.m.

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