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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pam Bondi deflects controversy over firings, angry memo



It's been a rough month for Attorney General Pam Bondi. She faced criticism in late July for the forced resignations of two attorneys leading the state's foreclosure fraud investigations. Then last week, assistant attorney general Andrew Spark released a 16-page diatribe (see the link below) accusing the office of failing to aggressively pursue foreclosure and consumer protection cases.

"The people of the State of Florida are entitled to fair and honest government, independent of personal connections and powerful interests, and I have decided to speak out," Spark wrote. He quit the next day.

Democrats are seizing on the controversy, turning what Bondi has characterized as issues with subpar, disgruntled personnel into political embarrassment by calling for independent investigations and introducing legislation aimed at Bondi's office.

Among Spark's revelations: Two top lawyers left Bondi's office to work for companies under investigation, and when he launched an examination of the advertising practices at Tampa's Ferman Motor Cars, his supervisor noted that Robert Shimberg, who helped raise money for Bondi's campaign and served on her transition team, is Ferman's company attorney.

"This appears to be a small case, but the target is a very prominent Tampa business and their long time counsel is Robert Shimberg," wrote Richard Lawson, director of the AG's Economic Crimes Division, in an e-mail after Spark received approval to investigate Ferman. "You should be aware of this in case the AG has any questions. If the case develops into something more significant I will advise accordingly."

A short time later, Spark's direct supervisor suggested that the case be settled by allowing Ferman to resolve the advertising question with fine print.

The case is ongoing, said Jennfier Meale, a spokeswoman for Bondi.

"You learn when you get elected, sadly, that politics play into everything," Bondi said. "It's tough when people accuse you with baseless allegations, but I'm going to continue to do what I know is right."

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 4:01pm]


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