Judge Upholds Spence-Jones Suspension

Commissioner and Crist duke it out over suspensions

By Steve Litz and Brian Hamacher
|  Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010  |  Updated 6:33 AM EDT
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Win and You're In - And Out

Michelle Spence-Jones

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Spence-Jones Hearing

Michelle Spence-Jones loses round 1 of her fight against Gov. Crist, who has now suspended her twice from her Miami commission seat.

Spence-Jones Takes on Crist

Ousted Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones wants a piece of Gov. Charlie Crist in court.
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A Miami-Dade judge ruled Tuesday to uphold Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to suspend Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, despite the Distrct 5 representative's win in a special election last week.

While the judge ruled against Spence-Jones in the emergency hearing, a date of Feb. 12 has been set for the full hearing to play out.

Spence-Jones is suing Crist, hoping to overturn his executive order suspending her.  He booted Spence-Jones amid allegations she used $50,000 in public money to help fund her family's restaurant and spa businesses.

The first suspension came in November, when Spence-Jones turned herself in to authorities to face charges of grand theft. The second suspension came last Thursday, after Spence-Jones won back her seat in a special election.

Voters in District 5 overwhelmingly supported her, despite the allegations, a point the South Florida ACLU apparently thinks is relevant: they're now backing the strong-willed commissioner.

"The Governor is trampling on the rights of voters who elected Spence-Jones back into office with full knowledge of the charges against her. She is innocent until proven guilty," Muslima Lewis, with the ACLU, told the Miami Herald. "This is a first-of-its kind abuse of power by a Florida governor."

If a resolution can't be figured out in court, the City Commission could appoint a replacement for Spence-Jones in the near future. 

"I think it would be great if they sent a positive message to the community that we are going to at least respect the voters and hold off on their appointment," Spence-Jones said inside the courtroom after the hearing.

Spence-Jones has steadfastly maintained her innocence from the beginning.

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