Fla. AG to seek independent review of firings

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 2, 2011, 1:42pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday she will seek an independent review of the decision to fire two assistant attorneys general in her office.

The assistant attorneys general, Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson, led foreclosure fraud investigations under former Attorney General Bill McCollum. The two were ousted in June for "poor performance."

Bondi told the Tallahassee Democrat that the decision to fire Edwards and Clarkson was made by three top administrators in her office.

"This decision was made on job performance, not politics, by three members of my top staff," the attorney general told the newspaper.

Last week, state Rep. Darren M. Soto asked for more information about the firings. He pointed out that public records indicate that the terminations occurred while the two were in the midst of successful mortgage fraud litigation and "in spite of prior successful reviews."

"As a member who represents an area ravaged by foreclosure fraud, these terminations present an overwhelming public concern," he wrote in a letter to Bondi.

Soto, a Democrat, represents Orange and Osceola counties.

Soto requested under the state's Public Records Act that Bondi's office provide him with "any and all records related to job performance" of Edwards and Clarkson within the past three years.

As part of the request, he also asked that Bondi's office provide a list of all case numbers for all currently active cases managed by Edwards and Clarkson and the amounts of any settlements, along with their case numbers, occurring within the past three years in cases managed by the two.

Nonprofit Progress Florida also has called for an investigation into Bondi's firings.

"It's bad enough Gov. Rick Scott is hard at work dismantling key consumer protections, but now he has a partner: our own Attorney General Pam Bondi. She seems to think her first duty is to protect some of Gov. Scott's biggest corporate pals -- the banks -- instead of hardworking Floridians," according to a page on the group's website.

The group has asked visitors to sign a petition calling on the Attorney General's Office of Inspector General to investigate Bondi's actions.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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