Florida Official Reinstated After Conviction Overturned

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis has reinstated a suspended Sumter County commissioner whose conviction on a perjury charge was overturned by an appeals court last year.

DeSantis issued an executive order Friday reinstating Oren Miller, who filed a lawsuit in January in Leon County circuit court to try to get his job back. Circuit Judge John Cooper on April 4 issued an order that said he found a “prima facie ground for relief” and gave DeSantis and Sumter County a timeframe to reinstate Miller or respond to the lawsuit.

“Effective immediately, Oren Miller is reinstated to the public office he held at the time of the above-mentioned suspension, to wit: Sumter County Commissioner, District 5,” DeSantis’ executive order said.

The lawsuit also requested that Miller receive lost wages from the period of the suspension. The executive order did not specifically address the issue of lost wages.

The suspension stemmed from allegations that Miller violated the Sunshine Law by having phone conversations with another commissioner after getting elected in 2020, according to a Nov. 9 decision by a panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal that overturned the conviction.

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As part of an investigation by the State Attorney’s Office, Miller gave a sworn statement in October 2021 and was asked about phone calls with the other commissioner, Gary Search. The appeals-court ruling said the perjury charge was based on a statement that Miller did not have telephone conversations with Search after January 2021.

But the appeals court said that Miller’s “entire statement indicates the calls stopped between January and March 2021 or ‘somewhere in there.’ Miller even goes as far to acknowledge phone calls in March 2021 by saying, ‘Yes, I promise you we had phone calls.’”

Also, the ruling said state law allowed Miller to correct or clarify his statement.

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“Here, even if Miller was considered to have definitively and falsely stated that no calls occurred after January, his later answers corrected or clarified the uncertain timing of calls, including those made or received in February and March 2021,” the appeals-court ruling said. “As a result, as a matter of law, Miller cannot be found guilty of perjury as charged in the information.”

The ruling said Miller spent 75 days in jail.

While DeSantis has the authority to suspend officials, the Florida Senate has the power to remove them from office. The lawsuit filed in Leon County said the Senate did not approve Miller’s suspension.

Miller was listed on the Sumter County Commission website Monday.


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