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Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones strikes out in court


Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones

Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones strikes out in court

By Derek Joy

One! Two!! Three strikes and you’re out!!!

    That was the ruling made by Miami Dade Circuit Judge Jorge E. Cueto as Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones fought to rebound from the legal challenge mounted by the Rev. Richard P. Dunn II.

   Spence Jones, who was suspended by then Gov. Charlie Crist when Miami Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle brought felony charges against her, was acquitted in one case and saw the other case dismissed. She was suspended from office from Jan. 2010 to Sept. 2011.

    She was re-instated, given back pay and benefits then won a second term.

    “I think it’s a decision that was fair and favorable to the residents of the city of Miami, especially the residents of District,” said Dunn, who sued to have Spence Jones removed from the November Ballot in accordance with the city charter that limit’s elected officials to two terms in office.

    “The residents of the city of Miami, in an overwhelming 73-percent of the vote, ordered term limits. It’s unfortunate for her. But I didn’t have anything to do with that (Charter Amendment by referendum instituting term limits).”

    City Attorney Julie Bru earlier ruled that Spence Jones was eligible and qualified to run for a third term. Dunn, through his attorney, former State Representative J.C. Planas, sued and won a challenge to remove Spence Jones from the ballot.

    While Spence Jones’ attorney Bruce Rogow called the issue of her back pay confirms her being paid  and receiving benefits for two terms a “red herring,” neither Spence Jones nor Bru returned telephone calls seeking justification for their positions.

    However, despite not taking issue with the matter until Cueto ruled against his client, Rogow has since sought to have Cueto removed, the decision vacated and a new judge appointed to hear the case.

    “Her (Spence Jones) lawyer will be the only winner on that side, as long as he’s getting paid,” said Ted Pinckney, a Miami native who now lives in Tampa. “She’s crazy.”

    According to published reports, Rogow intends to appeal the ruling if he cannot get Cueto’s decision vacated.

    “I like her,” said Marguerite Bivins Mosley, a retired educator, who thinks Spence Jones should be allowed to run for a third term.

    Said Planas: “It worked out in favor of the city of Miami residents and the residents of District 5. The city Charter is clear. Term limits. People have to respect the Charter.

    Still, added Planas: “I think they’ll appeal but I don’t think they’ll win. I think Appellate Judges will agree with the Charter.”

    That is a prevailing thought among many queried on the subject.

      “Another judge may rule the same way,” said George Stewart, a community activist.

    Interestingly, Spence Jones not only received full back pay and benefits, but her attorney fees were, and are still being paid, by the city of Miami. In effect, the residents are footing what appears to be the bill for a frivolous legal challenge.  Dunn paid his own attorney fees.

    Since the Charter specifically mandates a limit of two terms, and Spence Jones was compensated for the equivalent of the same. Yet she and Bru have no justification for a third term.

   “She’s (Spence Jones) is crazy, a lunatic,” said Mack Finnie, a retired educator and community activist. “She’s money hungry, just greedy. I’m glad she’s out.”

    Spence Jones is out if Cueto’s ruling stands circuit and appellate challenges.

    If so, Dunn, who is the first and only candidate to have qualified for the District 5 seat, will take his message to the voters for the November 6, election.

    “It’s nothing personal, even though I know there are those who believe it is, said Dunn. “There were others who felt as I did but didn’t have the courage to fight for what the Charter calls for.”

    “This is not for Richard Dunn. It’s for the city of Miami, the people in the city and the people in District 5. I have a history of fighting for what is right, whether it benefits me or not,” added Dunn, who noted he was one of the litigants who successfully sued for Single Member Districts in the city of Miami.


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