Mifflin Village

A sign that reads "Recall the Mayor" sits just outside the Village of Mifflin's town hall building along Maine Street. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was corrected at 4:38 p.m. to reflect the fact that Joe Kearns, an acting judge, heard the case in Ashland Municipal Court and that Deb Cole was a former mayor who was elected to council.

MIFFLIN — A man elected to Mifflin Village Council in November was arrested and jailed Wednesday in what he called a plot to remove him from elected office.

Court records show Freddie Craig, 64, was charged Dec. 15 with menacing by stalking, stemming from “over eight years as an apparent feud between neighbors," according to an emailed press release from village police Chief Jerry Snay.

“This was a proactive enforcement action taken to prevent a more serious situation,” Snay wrote.

Craig is the only village official willing to be interviewed for this story, which is largely based on public records, including a video from a village council meeting.

The press release, included in full on this story’s sidebar, was posted to the village’s Facebook page on Jan. 6. It pointed to an October 2021 complaint that led to a report being filed on Dec. 15.

Ashland Source obtained a copy of the report. It also did not describe the incident in any detail. Rather, the complaint cited a violation of Ohio Revised Code 2903.211, a statute defining menacing by stalking.

Complaint

The pink paper is a copy of the complaint filed against Fred Craig.

The handwritten complaint states “no person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause mental distress to the other person,” which is a version of the longer legal definition of the misdemeanor. It did not identify the other person.

The complaint was served to Craig on Jan. 5, the day Snay arrested him.

Craig posted bail Thursday after agreeing to Acting Judge Joe Kearns conditions that include not consuming alcohol or drugs and to stay off Facebook.

One of the conditions also included not having contact with the victim, who Craig later learned was Joyce Amos, a fellow village councilwoman.

Mifflin Township Map

This map shows the location of Mifflin, inside Mifflin Township, which is near the Richland-Ashland County line.

Craig, who agreed to an interview with Ashland Source hours after being released from jail, said he is bewildered by the charge and subsequent jailing. At the time of the interview, he said he was working to secure legal counsel, but had not yet done so.

Though he says he's confused about the mechanics behind his arrest, he believes the incident is a conspiratorial plot to get him off council.

“There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “According to the press release, it happened in October. But there wasn’t a complaint filed until Dec. 15, which is the same night as the alley closing meeting.”

Craig referenced a special meeting the village had on Dec. 15 to discuss and act on a number of alley vacations. Craig, who attended the meeting and recorded it with a video camera, said the meeting “got strong.”

Special Meeting to close alleys

At several points during the nearly 40-minute meeting, Craig spoke against the closure of alleys named Florida and Alaska.

At one point, Mayor Vickie Schultz slammed her hand on the plastic folding table and said “guys, shut up” in an attempt to silence the room that was embroiled in a heated argument.

The village’s solicitor, Michael Brown, suggested council not close Florida, since the debate between Craig and Amos seemed to focus on that alley.

Amos said in a video of the Dec. 15 meeting there is a “terrible” years-long dispute between Craig and herself. She said her property has “mystery damages” for which she suspects Craig is responsible.

Ultimately, council decided unanimously against Brown’s suggestion and closed Florida, along with a number of other alleys in the village. The decision prompted Craig to say “see you in court, folks” before walking out of the building.

“I think that was the night the complaint was made,” Craig told a reporter. “I don’t know who made the complaint. I have to say it was (Councilwoman Joyce Amos). I don’t know that for a fact. But if the judge tells me to leave her alone … and (Jerry Snay), when he arrested me, he asked me ‘what is going on with you and Amos?’ I said, ‘I don’t know,’” Craig said.

Snay, Amos, Shultz and Brown did not respond to requests for comment.

Craig questioned the timing of his arrest, pointing out the village’s reorganizational meeting was scheduled for Thursday. The village’s first voting meeting of the year is scheduled for Jan. 13.

Mifflin voters elected Craig in November for a four-year term to council, along with his wife, Philene Craig. Debra Cole, the former mayor, was elected, too. There were four openings on council — they were the only three choices.

Craig served as village mayor from 2012 to 2016.

The current mayor, Vickie Shultz, was elected November 2015. Craig ran against her in 2019, but lost.

He filed a petition to recall Shultz in June.

The petition ultimately failed because the Ashland County Board of Elections invalidated it, basing its decision on a letter from County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell that said the village, an unchartered entity, does not provide a means to recall an elected official.

As to the judge’s condition that restrict’s Craig’s access to Facebook, the councilman said he thinks that is because he manages pages called “Mifflin Village” and “Village of Mifflin.” The posts on those pages often criticize village administration actions.

One post exposed the dumping of raw sewage into an unnamed creek that happens to run through Craig’s yard. The post led to media coverage by this publication and an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigation.

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