Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Former Opa-locka mayor elected to two-term commission seat

John Riley was elected to a two-year term on the Opa-locka City Commission Tuesday.
John Riley was elected to a two-year term on the Opa-locka City Commission Tuesday.

After nearly losing his chance to keep his commission seat due to a bad check, John Riley — mayor of Opa-locka three decades ago — won a two-year seat on the City Commission in Tuesday’s special election.

With all seven precincts reporting, Riley, 72, earned about 56 percent of the vote, while Anna Margarita Alvarado, 52, political newcomer and former city employee, received about 44 percent.

The seat was held by Commissioner Terence Pinder until he died in a single-car crash in May as he faced an arrest on state bribery charges. Riley was appointed to fill Pinder’s seat on an interim basis in June, and he will now serve the remaining two years of Pinder’s term.

“I am thankful and I am there to make the necessary changes for Opa-locka that will move it forward,” Riley said.

He was initially disqualified early in September after bouncing his qualifying check but was reinstated on the ballot about a week later thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling in the Miami Gardens mayoral election that changed the state statute and gave him another chance to pay the qualifying fee. By then, however, the printing of ballots for the Nov. 8 general election was under way, and a special election had to be called.

Riley served as Opa-locka’s mayor in the mid-1980s. He eventually lost his position when a police informant said he saw Riley accept a $5,000 bribe to sway his vote on the city’s flea market.

Riley denied the allegations and was not charged. Despite this, his efforts to resume his political career were unsuccessful for the next three decades as he lost several races for the City Commission.

In his few months on the commission this year, he has opposed the state oversight board appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to help address the city’s financial woes and insolvency. He has said in the past that the board is undermining the commission’s power.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3