Gov. Crist Suspends Spence-Jones After Arrest

One Miami city commissioner turns self in, another will plead guilty

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Michelle Spence-Jones

    Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones has surrendered to authorities this morning, just one day after she was sworn into office for her second term.

    Prosecutors have accused Spence-Jones of forging letters to steer $50,000 in county grant money to a family business, which she and her brother then allegedly spent on themselves.

    Spence-Jones posted a $12,500 bond Friday afternnoon and then received the news that Gov. Charlie Crist was immediately removing her from her post until things cleared up.

    Spence-Jones Addresses Charges Against Her

    [MI] Spence-Jones Addresses Charges Against Her
    Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones addresses the corruption charges she's facing.

    "I am grateful to Florida's State Attorneys for their tireless work to uncover corruption and bring those who abuse their position of public trust to justice," Crist said in a statement. "Today's events further demonstrate the need for a Statewide Grand Jury to identify necessary changes in current law and provide specific recommendations to combat corruption in our state."

    Spence-Jones, flanked by lawyers and a large entourage, held a press conference outside the Metro Justice Building just before she turned herself in.

    Commissioner Shake Up

    [MI] Commissioner Shake Up
    A day after Tomas Regalado takes office, two commissioners find themselves in the middle of criminal investigations.

    "I stand here today, swearing before Almighty God that I have never ever violated my oath of office," Spence-Jones said. "This case is not about public corruption. The grant provided to me and my family was provided prior to me even being in office. This charge that has been brought today by the state attorney's office is the result of a witchhunt."

    "I did not forge any letters or steal any money. As Don King would say, 'Only in America,'" Spence-Jones said, adding that she hopes the public will give her the benefit of a presumption of innocence

    The news is a complete turn around from yesterday, when the 42-year-old celebrated her re-election at her swearing-in ceremony.

    A defiant Spence-Jones didn't speak with reporters, but used her speech to take aim at her accusers.

    "When our leaders or our communities are attacked, criticized, lied on, abused, misused, we must say enough is enough, no longer will we stand by and allow for these public lynchings to occur without standing up," Spence-Jones said yesterday.

    The embattled commissioner did address the accusations in a brief press release, brushing them off as old news.

    "The matter that the state attorney's office is examining as it is related to me is not breaking news. This is an old story that is at least three years old," the release read. "I have learned that as an elected official, we are under constant scrutiny. I am not worried because I know that I have done nothing wrong."

    Spence-Jones, who won her district with over 82 percent of the vote, will likely be suspended by Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

    "I'm hoping that whatever happens from the Governor's perspective, that the right person is there to continue the mission to make sure that we complete everything that we started," Spence-Jones said.

    Meanwhile, things look just as bad for fellow city commissioner Angel Gonzalez, who is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of exploitation of public office.

    Gonzalez is expected to resign from the commission either today or Monday, when he will face a judge to enter his plea. He also has agreed to never run for public office again.

    According to Gonzalez's attorney, Jack Blumenfeld, Gonzalez's daughter got a "ghost job" with a construction company that did work for the city. The "ghost job" allowed his daughter to collect a paycheck and receive benefits even though she never actually did any work for the company.

    Blumenfeld said Gonzalez has been cooperating with the investigation. Michelle Gonzalez, 28, won't face charges for taking the sham job.

    Also expected to be charged is the Delant Construction company and its owner, Juan Delgado.

    The State Attorney's Office is holding a press conference later today to announce the charges.