Make us your home page
Instagram

Bondi faces call for inquiry into forced resignations of two state lawyers

TALLAHASSEE — Calls are building for an investigation into the forced resignations by Attorney General Pam Bondi of two lawyers investigating foreclosure fraud.

A state lawmaker on Wednesday requested all documents related to the resignations, while a liberal public interest group has been circulating a petition asking for the state inspector general to investigate.

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 from their posts in the Fort Lauderdale economic crimes bureau.

The two had received positive job evaluations from McCollum.

"As a member who represents an area ravaged by foreclosure fraud, these terminations present an overwhelming public concern," said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, in a letter to Bondi.

Progress Florida, a St. Petersburg advocacy group, is asking for an investigation into Bondi's actions.

"We think the big banks and the financial industry have leveraged their enormous political power to have these attorneys removed," said Mark Ferrulo, executive director for Progress Florida.

Bondi said that such suggestions are "unfounded and offensive."

"The decision that supervisors made to end the employment of these two employees, like every decision made in my office, was made based on sound policy and responsible management," she said Wednesday in a prepared statement. "We are more aggressively pursuing foreclosure law firm investigations and have substantially increased the amount of time and more than doubled the number of employees working on these investigations."

In an interview with the Times/Herald, Clarkson said that after Bondi took office, she and Edwards were questioned intensely about their ongoing cases by Richard Lawson, appointed by Bondi as head of the Economic Crimes Division.

In particular, he asked about Jacksonville-based Lender Processing Services and Tampa-based ProVest, Clarkson said.

"We were under fire like you have no idea," Clarkson said. "It was like our home team was against us."

Lender Processing Services donated more than $40,000 to campaigns in the 2010 election, largely to Republican candidates, including Bondi. The company donated $36,500 to the Republican Party of Florida, according to campaign finance records.

Lawson, who started working for Bondi in late January, said he questioned the two so he could get up to speed on the cases.

"The cases were in shambles," he said. "That was quite problematic given the priority nature I was giving this."

Bondi's chief of staff, Carlos Muniz, said the two were terminated because of poor job performance. Problems included analysis of legal issues, judgment in discussing investigations with third parties and professionalism, he said.

"It was only out of basic professional courtesy that I authorized giving Clarkson and Edwards the option to resign rather than be fired outright," Muniz said. "Their performance was unacceptable."

He called it a "mundane personnel decision" that has been sensationalized and said it's incorrect to conclude their dismissal means Bondi isn't interested in investigating foreclosure fraud.

"Nothing could be farther from the truth," Muniz said.

The office currently is investigating 10 law firms and businesses for possible improprieties in foreclosure proceedings, including Lender Processing Services and ProVest, he said.

He also said in the past three months, employees in Bondi's office have spent more time on foreclosure law firm investigations than Edwards and Clarkson did in an entire year.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Bondi faces call for inquiry into forced resignations of two state lawyers 07/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]

  2. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park

    Business

    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  3. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers

    Business

    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  4. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Banking

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]
  5. Cooking passion spurs owner to pull open AJ's Kitchen Drawer

    Business

    TAMPA — After graduating from the University of Tampa in May 2016, AJ Albrecht spent four months traveling around Southeast Asia and Australia.

    AJs Kitchen Drawer offers a wide variety of unique kitchenware items, such as handcrafted knives and wooden items, as well as local gourmet products. Photo by Danielle Hauser