Broward school board member-elect waits for state’s clemency to be sworn in

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Rod Velez ran against Marie Murray Martin to represent Broward County Public Schools District 1 as a school board member during the midterm elections. More than 2,850 voters elected Velez, but he can’t get to work just yet.

Velez, an active member of the Parents, Teacher, Student Association, is waiting for the state’s clemency. And under the threat of Murray Martin’s lawsuit, he chose to step aside on Tuesday as the other school board members were sworn in.

“I look forward to being on the dais soon,” Velez said from behind the public’s podium.

After a mistake he made nearly three decades ago, Velez said he was able to restore his voting rights. The father of two has been married for more than two decades and he serves on the Education Advisory Committee in Hollywood.

In 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment Four to restore the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they completed all of the terms of their sentences.

Murray Martin argues that Amendment Four doesn’t give Velez the right to run for office and questions the legitimacy of the election.

Results of the November election show voters chose Rodney Velez to represent District 1 in the Broward County School Board. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

“If I do get sworn in, I understand that I will be breaking the law, and knowingly I will not do that,” Velez said after the school board’s public meeting.

Murray Martin accused Velez of “falsely” signing the candidate’s oath. Velez said he is qualified under the U.S. Constitution and the laws of Florida.

“Without proof of Clemency aka civil rights, the Respondent (Velez) should not be permitted to have his votes certified by the Broward Supervisor of Elections, hold office nor be sworn in,” her lawsuit alleged.

In 1995, Velez pleaded guilty to aggravated battery. His campaign biography lists his community service and accomplishments as an activist and advocate, but it did not include this stain in his record.

As of Wednesday, state officials did not have a record of the restoration of his civil rights available. Velez said it’s only a matter of time before they do.

“The State has everything they need to hit the button and process everything,” Velez said.

He also made a promise to those who voted for him: “Regardless of whatever happens to me, I’m still going to be around. You’re not going to get rid of me. My voice will be heard.”

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.