MIAMI (CN) – A Miami city commissioner who was arrested on suspicion of felony grand theft the day she was sworn in to office claims that Gov. Charlie Crist suspended her unconstitutionally, and threatened to do it again if she triumphs in a special election next week. Michelle Spence Jones’ claim apparently hinges on the fact that she was arrested on a criminal information – not a grand jury indictment.
After winning more than 82 percent of the vote in her district, Spence Jones was sworn in to office on Nov. 12, 2009.
Also on that day, Jones was arrested on charges of grand theft. She was charged with funneling $50,000 in Miami-Dade County funds to a family business in 2005, according to the Miami Herald.
Also on that day, Gov. Crist suspended her from office.
The City of Miami called a special election for Jan. 12.
After Spence Jones declared that she would run again, Crist told the Herald, “If Spence-Jones wins the Jan. 12 special election, Miami voters are probably facing a return to the polls for the third time in a year. I hesitate to say, but I think there might have to be another special election if that happens,” the complaint states, citing the Herald article.
That prompted Jones’ attorney, Dennis Bedard, to say in an interview with Courthouse News, “I don’t think his words are consistent with his constitutional mandate.”
Spence Jones’ claim states: “On Nov. 12, 2009, the Office of the State Attorney arrested her for grand theft, a felony, via a criminal information.”
She seeks “a permanent injunction prohibiting Gov. Crist from re-suspending Spence Jones from office so long as she is an unindicted municipal official.”
She also seeks declaratory judgment on whether the governor’s statutory power to suspend her violates the Florida Constitution.
“They [the voters] know she was arrested and what it’s about,” Bedard said. “This is America and you have a right to elect who you want to elect. … What’s the purpose of giving people a right to run for office if they can’t serve? It’s an affront to democracy.”