In the newest development in a succession of corruption reports at Miami City Hall, District Five Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones surrendered to county investigators amid allegations that she forged letters and other documents to have city funds enter her private coffers.
Before taking her final bow as an active commissioner, she promised her audience innocence.
Governor Charlie Crist has suspended her from office today after she turned herself in to country authorities.
“This charge is about removing me from office and not seeking the truth,” Spence-Jones said at a press conference outside of the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building on Friday morning. “I never forged letters or stole any money.”
Miami-Dade prosecutors are accusing Spence-Jones of forging documents in the name of former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler to make $50,000 available to her family’s private business, Karym Ventures.
And the circus of corruption doesn’t end there.
Commission Angel Gonzalez is expected to resign from his district seat on Monday after having been convicted of exploiting his public office to have his daughter, Elizabeth Gonzalez, hired by the Delant Construction Company.
At least he will also vow to never run again for public office. Can we please get these clowns out of the city’s commission?
Prosecutors say the daughter earned $47,000 between July 2004 and May 2006 after not having worked second. In 2004, the company president Juan Delgado agreed to hire Elizabeth for $500 a week.
Conveniently, the commissioner had not realized that his daughter had been awarded the job.
With the resignation and suspension of commissioners Angel Gonzalez and Michelle Spence-Jones, respectively, the Miami commission has no quorum to legislate. City Hall is apparently on a governing freeze until new appointees are selected to lead these districts and represent them on the commission.
In an unrelated case, Delant Construction is also under investigation after accusations arose that it had filed bogus invoices for work that was never completed to Miami-Dade County.
The company had been contracted to build a $25 million office building that would be the county housing agency’s headquarters.
The money was taken from a county bank account appropriated for the project by developer Raul Masvidal, who heads the Hometown Station project. He’s being accused of stealing almost $1 million in county funds, $150,000 of which was spent on a watermelon statue for his personal use.
Delant is a major Miami-Dade builder. This corporation built the MetroWest Detention Center and the Water & Sewer headquarters for the county. After having spent $170,000 on local political candidates and political action committees, Delgado is a huge player in Miami politics.
Delgado will be at court on Monday as a co-defendant in the Masvidal trial. Now, the case is taking a new turn, with both of them facing charges of fraud and first-degree grand theft.
Critics of the corruption at the city commission are praising the change brought about with the swearing in of Miami’s 33rd mayor – Tomas Regalado. He seems to be doing a stellar job facilitating what he set out to do in his campaign: clean up the city littered with corruption, fraud and unethical dealings.
It’s only a matter of time before the depth of all this corruption surfaces. It is essential that law enforcement hoses the commission of all the dirt it can find, but the governor and mayor must hurry to appoint someone to the commission to reestablish quorum and regain the ability to legislate in a city undergoing monumental change.