Vacated Broward County School Board member files lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis over Executive Order

by | Jan 9, 2023

  • Rod Velez, the elected Broward County School Board member whose seat was vacated before he could be sworn in, filed a lawsuit in the Broward County Circuit Court on Monday 
  • The lawsuit was filed against Gov. Ron DeSantis, who vacated Velez’s seat hours before he was to be sworn in
  • The suit seeks to have Velez sworn into office, assuming the role of the Governor’s appointed replacement, Daniel P. Foganholi
  • Velez’s seat was vacated after he was unable to be sworn in within 30 days of his election victory. Velez’s swearing-in ceremony was delayed after his eligibility to hold office was thrown into question due to a 1995 criminal conviction

Rod Velez, the elected Broward County School Board member who was unable to be sworn in, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Broward County Circuit Court on Monday

The suit seeks to have Velez sworn into office in place of the Governor’s appointed replacement, Daniel P. Foganholi.

The filing states that because the Florida Constitution was amended to restore the voting rights of a citizen who satisfied all terms of a criminal sentencing, Velez, who was convicted of a felony crime in 1995, should have been permitted to assume his elected role.

The lawsuit contends that “the plural “voting rights” restored by Amendment 4 include the right to vote and hold office.”

“I am continuing this fight for all of our children and returning citizens. I am a firm believer that education is the key to our children’s success and that the preservation of our country and Constitution depends on the development of each new generation of citizens,” said Velez. “I am looking forward to having the court affirm my legitimate right to represent the people of Broward County, as elected by the voters of District 1.”

In the leadup to his intended swearing-in ceremony, Velez’s eligibility to occupy public office was subjected to several legal challenges. The lawsuit states that his defeated opponent, Marie Martin, made criminal complaints against Velez, arguing that his felony conviction rendered him ineligible to take on his elected school board position.

Though it publicly stated that Amendment 4 does not restore the right to hold office, the Broward State Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute Velez on December 20 because “the 2018 change in the law was confusing even for seasoned attorneys and investigators and, as such, would be confusing for the general public,” according to the lawsuit.

The Broward County Circuit Court then announced on December 21 that it would be dismissing a lawsuit brought forth by Martin to block him from assuming office.

Velez scheduled his swearing-in ceremony to take place the next day, December 22.

Hours before the ceremony was scheduled to begin, however, DeSantis issued the Executive Order to vacate the seat, subsequently appointing Foganholi in Velez’s place.

“We believe the Governor exceeded the authority granted to him by the Florida Constitution in denying Rod Velez the office to which he was elected,” said Velez’s attorney Marc A. Burton.

The Office of the Governor on Monday night told The Capitolist that it stands firm in its initial decision to vacate Velez’s seat.”

“We stand firm on the two separate legal grounds for the vacancy declared by the governor on the Broward County School Board.  As a convicted felon whose civil rights have not been restored, Velez could not qualify and does not qualify for the School Board,” said DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin. “Contrary to Velez’s position, Amendment 4 (2018) did not restore his right to hold office, which is evident according to Article VI, section 4, of the Florida Constitution.  The Governor’s office will respond to Velez’s meritless lawsuit if required by the Court pursuant to Rule 1.630, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.”


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