A 27-year-old felony conviction will prevent an elected member of the Broward County School Board from taking his seat and a previous appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis will take his spot, the Governor’s Office announced Thursday.
Rodney Velez, won election to represent the southern part of Broward County on the School Board last month, but he discovered after the election that his right to hold office was not restored along with his right to vote due to a 1995 felony conviction. The second-finisher in the race filed suit and Velez hired a lawyer in his effort to get his right to hold office restored, but a December hearing of the Clemency Board was canceled.
And apparently the clock has run out — at least according to the Governor.
“Since 30 days have passed since the commencement of the term of office for Broward County School Board District 1, and no person has taken office within that time period, Governor DeSantis declares that a vacancy exists on the Broward County School Board, which he will fill in compliance with the law,” a Thursday memorandum reads.
Velez, who was convicted of aggravated battery in 1995, said he intends to fight on to be seated with the Broward County School Board. He had been on his way to be sworn in Thursday when DeSantis’ executive order was announced, he said. The day before, prosecutors had announced he would not be prosecuted for signing a form that he was eligible to hold office, a concern that had kept him from taking his seat earlier.
“I’m not done,” Velez said. “This is not over. I won an election.”
Velez’s lawyer, Mike Gottlieb, also a Democratic state Representative, said that DeSantis’ action is clearly at odds with the democratic process.
“It’s purely political,” he said. “He’s contravening the will of the people.”
Eight minutes after announcing the vacancy on the Board that needed to be filled, the Governor’s press office released another announcement, appointing Daniel Foganholi of Coral Springs to the seat representing District 1. Foganholi was appointed to the Board to fill the remainder of Sen. Rosalind Osgood’s term on the Board in April and served until District 5 voters elected a candidate last month. Osgood had resigned in November 2021 to run for state Senate.
While on the Board, Foganholi joined in voting with four other DeSantis appointees to the Broward County School Board. Those four appointees came to the Board after a grand jury report sitting Board members had been negligent in not pressing for the now-dismissed Superintendent from starting work on $800 million in facilities improvements that voters approved in 2014. DeSantis suspended the elected Board members, including one due to serve through 2024.
DeSantis’ appointees — all Republicans — made waves in the Democratic stronghold as they formed a voting bloc. Referred to as the “Reform Board,” they voted to fire Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and increase charter schools’ share of Broward County’s schools’ public revenues, all actions that the elected minority opposed.
Those moves were reversed once elected Board members’ formed a new majority of votes as their terms started in November. But the election of Board member Brenda Fam, who voted against rescinding Cartwright’s firing earlier this month, promises a conservative bloc on the Democrat-controlled Board.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Broward county (again). I thank the Governor for his vote of confidence in me to do the job,” Foganholi said. “I look forward to getting to work and provide a strong voice for the people of district one on the School Board.
Foganholi ran for Coral Springs City Commission in the November election but lost to Broward Schools’ employee and Commission incumbent Shawn Cerra.
December 22, 2022 at 4:29 pm
DeSantis will not give clemency to Velez, a man that was fairly elected by Florida citizens. Why won’t DeSantis give clemency and freedom to Velez? Do our votes mean nothing in Florida unless you bow down to the demands and politics of DeSantis.
December 22, 2022 at 9:19 pm
Desantis is an authoritarian. He wants control of the whole state and yes, he wants you to bow to him. His MAGAt legislature crawls up his leg to please him like I have never seen. These are very sick individuals. But the investigations are still under way and many are talking MAGAts are cowards, they will rat out anyone to save themselves. But desantis is the one who is going to hang for it.
December 23, 2022 at 8:15 am
Crazed replies from the far left
December 23, 2022 at 10:14 am
Merry Christmas Charlotte.
December 23, 2022 at 9:13 am
Being a convicted felon whose civil rights have not been restored is no small thing.
December 23, 2022 at 10:44 am
DeSantis can restore Velez rights by giving him clemency. Why doesn’t DeSantis do this?
December 28, 2022 at 9:50 pm
There are a number of issues here. To start, Velez is no victim and he knew he not filled out the paperwork and/or received his clemency year before he decided to run. That being said, it was his responsibility to make sure he could run prior to declaring his candidacy. I do know he refused to sign for certified postage multiple times. Not for nothing, the general public was NEVER made aware of the details surrounding his conviction and it was NOT until well into the early voting and mail-in ballot returns, that the local media even brought the issue up. As for DeSantis appointing Foganholi, THAT WAS ALWAYS his intent!!! I do know that one of the candidates, Marie Martin, had been reaching out to local and state officials before the primaries to get them to look into Velez’s clemency. DeSantis knew if Velez won, he could have him charged and/or simply appoint one of his guys. Note: DeSantis had already appointed Ryan Reiter but instead of leaving him in the seat, DeSantis retaliated because Reiter proved to not be as extreme as Foganholi (who does not even live in District 1).
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