Mayor Lynn Spruill smiles in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court on Friday. Judge Barry Ford named Spruill the victor in last year's mayoral election in a Friday ruling on a challenge of the election. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
July 20, 2018 11:24:18 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
A circuit court judge has ruled Mayor Lynn Spruill the victor in last year's mayoral runoff election.
Judge Barry Ford handed down his ruling Friday morning, wrapping up a nearly yearlong court case after Spruill's 2017 opponent Johnny Moore challenged his six-vote election loss to Spruill in the May 2017 Democratic party primary runoff election.
As part of that challenge, Moore's side argued eight affidavit ballots were not counted that should have been. In court on Friday, Ford said he would not count them, reversing an earlier decision to count an affidavit ballot cast by David A. Moore.
On the matter of a ballot cast in Ward 1 that was marked "none of the above," but still added to Spruill's vote total for that Ward, Ford ruled to subtract the vote from her count. Doing so narrowed her margin of victory to five votes.
In all other instances, including two absentee ballots that were called into question, Ford said admitting those votes would make no impact on the election's outcome. As such, he said, Spruill will remain Starkville's mayor.
During Friday's hearing, Ford asked each of Starkville's municipal commissioners if they agreed with his decision. Each commissioner said they did.
He also said that he found that the election was properly conducted.
"The court finds that there is not a scintilla of any evidence of fraud or wrongdoing that occurred in this election or voting process," Ford said
Spruill said she was relieved with the case's outcome and hopes to turn the whole of her attention to managing the city.
"I obviously am relieved that I can go back to focusing on city business and hopefully do so without any distractions again," Spruill said. "Mr. Moore will do what he needs to do and we'll keep on doing what we need to do to work for the city."
Moore's attorney, Will Starks of Columbus, said he was "shocked" by the decision. He said he and Moore will determine whether to file an appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court. They'll have 30 days to do so once Ford's order is drafted and entered into the court.
"We'll need some time to talk about it," Starks said. "An appeal is an expensive process, so we have to weigh those things and determine the risk/reward and all those types of things. I do think we certainly have grounds for an appeal.
The Dispatch will have further coverage of Ford's decision in Sunday's edition.
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