Attorney General’s office to investigate dismissals

Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

By Janet Zink

Published August 5, 2011

Facing criticism over the forced resignations of two attorneys leading foreclosure fraud investigations, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday she will appoint an independent inspector general to examine the dismissals.

Bondi said the two were let go from their jobs in the Fort Lauderdale economic crimes office because of poor job performance and not for political reasons, as critics have claimed.

But Bondi said she has questions about documentation of the decision made by her top staff members.

“I want to do everything I can to make this the best office in this country, and I do have questions as to documentation,” she said.

At issue are the departures of lawyers June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, who led foreclosure fraud investigations under former Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Clarkson and Edwards were forced to resign in late March by top staff in Bondi’s office. The pair had received positive job evaluations from McCollum.

The move prompted state Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Orlando, to demand all records from the Republican attorney general relating to the resignations. Soto said the “terminations present an overwhelming public concern” in a state ravaged by foreclosure fraud.

Progress Florida, a liberal advocacy group based in St. Petersburg, accused Bondi of being beholden to the financial industry and began circulating a petition calling for an investigation. Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida, said more than 6,000 Floridians have signed the petition.

“We clearly felt there was enough smoke here to warrant looking for a fire. We’re glad to hear there’s going to be an independent investigation,” he said.

Edwards said the appointment of an inspector general is a step in the right direction.

“We just hope it will really be someone independent,” she said. “If they are they’ll see that what appears happened, actually happened. We were fired without cause.”

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