Michelle Spence-Jones Cannot Seek 3rd Consecutive Term as Miami Commissioner, Judge Rules

Spence-Jones will appeal, her attorney said

By Edward B. Colby
|  Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013  |  Updated 10:23 PM EDT
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Judge Jorge Cueto ruled Tuesday that Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones is prohibited from seeking a third consecutive term in office.

Judge Jorge Cueto ruled Tuesday that Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones is prohibited from seeking a third consecutive term in office.

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Rev. Richard Dunn Squares Off Against Michelle Spence-Jones Over Miami Commission Seat

Judge Jorge Cueto heard arguments Monday over whether District 5 Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones can legally run for a third term this fall in a lawsuit filed by Rev. Richard Dunn. The rivals have eyes on the same Miami City Commission seat. Cueto, Dunn, Dunn's attorney J.C. Planas, Spence-Jones and her attorney Bruce Rogow spoke about the issue.

Dunn Suing To Stop Spence-Jones From Running Again

Former commissioner Richard Dunn is suing to stop Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones from seeking another term in office. He and his attorney Juan Carlos Planas made their case, while Spence-Jones declined to comment.
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A judge ruled Tuesday that Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones is prohibited from seeking a third consecutive term in office.

The Rev. Richard Dunn, a former commissioner, filed a lawsuit to stop his political rival Spence-Jones, saying the city charter prevents her from seeking a third straight term.

Judge Jorge Cueto ruled in Dunn's favor, saying that Spence-Jones maintained her qualification requirements for city commissioner at all times during her two terms. The District 5 commissioner is thus prohibited by the charter from seeking a third consecutive term, Cueto wrote.

Dunn, who is running for Spence-Jones' seat in the November election, said in a statement that he was grateful the judge respected voters' intentions on term limits.

"It is very important that we continue to be a city that respects the law. I join many who thank Michelle Spence-Jones for her service to our community and I wish her well in her future endeavors," Dunn said. "I now turn all of my attention to my upcoming election and doing everything possible to make sure that District 5 and the entire city of Miami continue to prosper.”

A city attorney had said that because Spence-Jones did not fully serve her two terms she was eligible to run again this fall.

After her election in 2009, Spence-Jones was suspended two times while she faced bribery and grand theft charges. She was exonerated of the charges and reinstated.

Cueto heard arguments in the case Monday.

"I am disappointed but impressed with Judge Cueto's thoughtfulness and the dispatch with which he resolved this," Spence-Jones' attorney, Bruce Rogow, said in an email. "We will appeal."

A phone message left at Spence-Jones' office early Tuesday evening was not immediately returned. The commissioner did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Spence-Jones said on Monday that no matter out the outcome of the case, whether she can be elected again should be a decision of the people, and not a judge.

“I think the voters should have the right as to who they elect," she said. "And I think that if we’re doing things from a democratic standpoint, we should allow the full voters to make a choice. It should not be based upon what a judge is saying."

Dunn's attorney, J.C. Planas, pointed out that 73 percent of Miami voters supported term limits for commissioners without exceptions in a 1999 referendum.

“We’re just very grateful that the judge has seen fit to uphold the city of Miami charter’s term limit provision, as written. And obviously the big winners today are the citizens of the city of Miami," he said.

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