MIAMI (CN) – A Miami city commissioner who twice won re-election and each time was immediately booted from office by Gov. Charlie Crist told a state judge on Friday why she believes she should be reinstated. The day she was sworn in for her second term last November, Michelle Spence Jones was charged with stealing $50,000 in county grant money to benefit her family business. Crist yanked her and called for a new election, which she won, and Crist yanked her again.
The hearing before Miami-Dade County Judge Victoria Platzer centered on three main arguments: the governor’s discretion to re-suspend Jones, her right to hold office, and the rights of government vs. the rights of voters.
Prosecutors told the Miami Herald in November 2009 that Spence-Jones had used forged letters – including one in the name of former Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler – to steer grants to a family business in 2004 and 2005, before she was elected for her first term.
“Some of the money later went to Spence-Jones and her brother personally, or was used to pay credit card bills for travel, clothes, satellite television and other expenses, according to an arrest warrant,” the Herald reported on Nov. 13, 2009.
Gov. Crist booted her from office and called a second election Jan. 12, which she won, and Crist yanked her again. Crist appointed the Rev. Richard Dunn to the seat; he came in second to Spence-Jones in the special election.
Judge Platzer said she was troubled over whether the governor had the authority to re-suspend Spence-Jones after District 5 voters re-re-elected it. Platzer said the issue is “too important” for her to rule immediately in a case “I am still not sure as of yet.”
She asked both parties to submit final briefs, no longer than 5 pages each, and said she hoped to be able to rule within 10 days.