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AG candidate Dan Gelber quit law firm after it agreed to represent BP

TALLAHASSEE — Democratic attorney general candidate Dan Gelber disclosed late Monday that he quit his law firm after it agreed to represent BP against oil spill disaster claims.

Gelber, a Miami Beach state senator and leading voice to ban oil drilling in Florida waters, said he resigned last week from Akerman Senterfitt, the state's largest law firm, but suggested he made his decision weeks earlier.

"I want Floridians to know I am only fighting for them," he said in an interview. "So I knew pretty quickly I would be leaving."

But Gelber didn't reveal his decision until after his Democratic primary opponent, state Sen. Dave Aronberg, called for his resignation Monday evening.

"As a candidate for attorney general, it is an inherent problem when your own law firm is on the other side of one of the most important pending lawsuits in Florida's history," Aronberg said in a prepared statement.

Gelber said he played no role in the firm's decision to represent BP and didn't know about it until days afterward. He is not a shareholder in the firm and works largely independently on an "of counsel" status, making $225,000 a year.

He initially suggested no conflict existed between his push for an offshore oil drilling ban and his firm's client, telling the Daily Business Review it was a "nonissue" in a story published June 15.

Aronberg's spokeswoman, Allison Jones, disputed that it took Gelber weeks to resign.

"If he did resign last week," she said, "it took 81,991,014 gallons, by conservative estimates, to gush into the gulf before he thought he might want to resign from the firm being paid to defend BP."

Gelber said he waited a couple of weeks to resign in order to inform clients and help transition them to new attorneys. He called Aronberg's statement a "political stunt."

"I sent in my resignation before he made this sophomoric move," he said. "Politicizing the oil spill in this way is pretty low."

AG candidate Dan Gelber quit law firm after it agreed to represent BP 06/28/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 4:10pm]
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