Politics & Government

Miami commissioner indicted for soliciting $25,000 in bribes

A Miami-Dade grand jury Wednesday indicted suspended Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones on charges that she asked for and received a $25,000 bribe from a prominent Miami developer whose project was awaiting a vote by the commission, prosecutors said.

The bribery indictment comes as a civil court judge is mulling whether Gov. Charlie Crist had the authority to suspend Spence-Jones twice after she was arrested in November on a separate grand theft charge.

The latest criminal case stems from her first year in office representing the Liberty City and Overtown areas of Miami.

In early 2006, prosecutors allege, Spence-Jones solicited $25,000 from Miami developer Armando Codina, whose company was seeking the commission's blessing to rename a portion of Southeast Second Avenue in downtown as ``Brickell Avenue.'' That would have boosted marketing of the massive Met condominium project near the Miami River.

Codina paid $12,500 to a nonprofit organization later created by Spence-Jones, prosecutors say.

Reached by cell phone Wednesday, Spence-Jones denied soliticing a bribe from Codina and called the indictment ``a joke.''

Codina's company was handling leasing for the Met project. Prosecutors say Ricardo Glas, of MDM Hotel Group, the project's main builder, also gave her $12,500.

Spence-Jones never got the chance to vote on the plan. It was pulled after city planners realized that only the Florida Legislature had the authority to rename the state road.

The embattled politician was first arrested in November, one day after she was sworn in for a second elected term. On Wednesday, Spence-Jones was also indicted on the original charge.

Prosecutors alleged that in late 2005, when she was a Miami mayoral aide, Spence-Jones illegally redirected $50,000 in county grant money to a family business. She has pleaded not guilty.

Read the full story at MiamiHerald.com