During a hearing last week, suspended Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones won a minor victory when a judge granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s motion to intervene in her lawsuit on behalf of five voters.
The ACLU argued that voters Jackie Lee Bell, Ella Curry, Levert Jordan Sr., Dorothy Quintana and the Rev. Anthony Tate have been disenfranchised by Gov. Charlie Crist’s refusal to respect the constituents’ right to select the candidate of their choice.
“The voters have the right to choose who represents them in the commission, not the governor,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.
Spence-Jones has been steadfast in her battle to reclaim her seat ever since Crist first suspended her after she was charged with grand theft for allegedly redirecting two county grants totaling $50,000 to a family business, and using some of the funds for personal expenses.
Spence-Jones was first suspended following her arrest shortly after the Nov. 3 election, when she won nearly 83 percent of the vote. She ran again in the Jan. 12 special election, receiving more than 53 percent of the vote, defeating eight other candidates. Crist suspended her again last month, stating that her criminal case had not been cleared, and a legal battle ensued.
Spence-Jones filed a claim in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month, seeking to reclaim the seat.
The ACLU first declared its intent to get involved in the case on Jan. 19 at Spence-Jones’ first hearing to gain a temporary injunction seeking to block Crist from suspending her again. At the time, the judge refused to hear the ACLU’s motion.
She heard it on Friday, however, and set the trial for Feb. 23. A hearing on Spence-Jones motion to block Crist’s suspension is scheduled for Feb. 12.
Photo: Michelle Spence-Jones