Judge orders Gov. DeSantis to show why School Board election winner shouldn’t be seated
Rodney Velez was elected to the Broward County School Board but a 27-year-old conviction is keeping him from taking his seat. (Photo via Twitter.)

Rod Velez had filed suit against DeSantis' executive order that kept him from being seated on the Broward County School Board a year ago. His advocates say it's a victory clarifying felons rights.

A Leon County Circuit Court Judge says a School Board election winner should be allowed to take his seat — despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order that kept Rod Velez from the dais.

The administration has 40 days to argue otherwise, according to writs of quo warranto issued by Circuit Court Judge John Cooper. A Governor’s spokesman dismissed the significance of the order, however.

Velez was elected to serve on the Broward County School Board in 2022, but his election was clouded by a 1995 felony conviction. Cooper’s filing could have implications for others awaiting the restoration of their voting rights under Amendment 4, he and his lawyers say.

Velez had not formally had his right to run for office restored after his 28-year-old conviction, but the Broward State Attorney announced after the election that Velez would not be prosecuted for swearing that he was eligible when he filed for election to the Broward County School Board.

Velez was due to be sworn in on Dec. 22, 2022, days after the State Attorney’s ruling. That same day, DeSantis issued an executive order, saying the seat was vacant. DeSantis appointed Dan Foganholi, a Broward County Republican, who had previously been appointed to the School Board, in Velez’s place.

Velez filed suit, asking for declaratory relief. Cooper’s writ says that, unless the administration can prove otherwise, Velez has shown cause for relief from the Governor’s order. The burden of arguing otherwise is on the administration, the filing shows.

“The Court was persuaded that the Governor’s executive order that declared a vacancy in Rod’s office and the Governor’s appointment of Mr. Foganholi may both have been illegal,” Velez’s lawyer, Marc Burton, wrote in an email. “The Governor and Mr. Foganholi have been ordered to either grant Rod the relief he is seeking in the lawsuit or attempt to defend their actions.

The Governor’s Office called Cooper’s court filing “a typical procedural action in this type of case” and said the administration response will be in a subsequent court filing. Foghanoli said he had no comment on the order.

Velez said he’s won a victory for all who served their time for a conviction to have their right to hold office restored under the amendment voters approved in 2018. Velez’s case highlighted the confusion around what civil rights Amendment 4 gives those convicted of felonies, his advocates had argued.

“Judge Cooper’s order provides hope that all returning citizens whose voting rights were restored by the 2018 Voting Restoration Amendment will be able to freely run for and hold office in the State of Florida, without fear that the Governor will prevent them from taking office through executive orders that undermine the will of the voters,” Velez said in a prepared statement.

“I am optimistic that the Court will enter a final order on my petition in the next few months.”

Velez was convicted of aggravated battery in 1995, completed his sentence and had his voting rights restored subsequently. The case he filed argued that Amendment 4 also restores Velez’s right to hold office. DeSantis’ order doesn’t mention whether Velez is eligible or not, but his staff confirmed that Velez was ineligible in the Governor’s view.

“As a convicted felon whose civil rights have not been restored, Velez could not qualify and does not qualify for the School Board,” Spokesman Bryan Griffin wrote in a December 2022 email.

Foganholi’s appointment on Dec. 22 represented the Coral Spring City Commission candidate’s second stint on the turmoil-racked Broward County School Board.

While on the Board, Foganholi joined in voting with four other DeSantis appointees to the Board in one of the most Democratic counties in the state. Those four appointees came to the Board after a grand jury report in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Marcus l wilson

    January 25, 2024 at 4:53 am

    What good does it do for a convicted ex felon to do his time pay all restitution and still get judged by society for a crime I did that was a family misunderstanding over 14 yrs ago

    • Barry

      January 25, 2024 at 12:13 pm

      That must have been some misunderstanding of you got charged and convicted of a felony. You had to have know you were violating some serious laws.

      • Frank

        January 26, 2024 at 11:07 am

        You have obviously not had the misfortune to deal with our system of justice. You do not comprehend the issue.

  • Jeff Kleyn

    January 25, 2024 at 7:05 am

    I have a few questions if you can answer them I live on the other side of the county so I’m not familiar with the story okay he was convicted of aggravated battery what was the circumstances around that that makes a big deal just a listing of a charge doesn’t tell you what the situation was around that charge more information would be appreciated in the conviction of that charge example was it battery on a child was there other charges that were dropped because there wasn’t enough evidence to prove something I’m not saying that that’s what happened just the particulars make a difference

    • Stephen G. Conner

      January 25, 2024 at 6:57 pm

      I agree, Jeff. I suspect more leftist twisting and turning to promote mounting evil in the United States. To make it the United States of Sodom. “Leftists masquerade as a political party while in actuality they are a satanic movement” was well stated by Mr. Whitlock.

  • Marie Murray Martin

    January 26, 2024 at 7:57 am

    Robert, Yes and the State Attorney Harold F Pryor’s officer said in a report dated 12-20-2022, “It is undisputed that without clemency Velez did not meet the qualifications and was not eligible to sign the oath (of office) which states,
    “I am qualified under the Constitution and Florida laws to hold the office which I desire to be
    nominated or elected.”

    The officer writes again “Velez’s statement in the Sun Sentinel that he will “fight” to get his clemency proves only that on October 30, 2022, Velez was aware that he was ineligible.”

    He was ineligible but not prosecuted for signing the oath, state’s attorney report. A separate court case was dismissed on 12-22-2022 in Broward court for procedural reasons, no one said he was eligible to run. Until he is granted clemency, he remains ineligible to run or hold office. This is the reason he waited 30 days and forfeited his seat. Velez’s forfeiture caused the Governor to appoint Mr Foganholi.

    Florida Politics: Please fact check before going to print.

  • KathrynA

    January 26, 2024 at 3:03 pm

    An amendment was passed in Florida to restore a felon’s rights if all restitution was made, but the state of Florida will not listen to the voice of the people or hear the thousands of cases that would allow people to qualify for their voting rights. I would say the chances of getting your rights restored is almost nil. There seems to be no recourse in this state.

  • Curtis L. Sherrod

    January 27, 2024 at 8:19 am

    I would bet that all those who agree with this vestige of Jim Crow also think that a 91 times indicted Donald Trump has the right to run for President!!

Comments are closed.


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