Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi did the right thing by appointing an independent inspector general to investigate the forced resignations of two staff attorneys. The lawyers say they lost their jobs because of the influence of deep-pocketed political donors who were under scrutiny for possible foreclosure fraud crimes. The attorney general should avoid even the appearance of political favoritism in prosecuting cases, and in this case a fresh look will be useful.
June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, two lawyers who worked in the attorney general's economic crimes bureau focusing on foreclosure fraud cases, were forced to resign in late March after being accused of poor job performance. The women claim otherwise, insisting they were forced out of their jobs while investigating two companies with strong Republican Party ties, Jacksonville-based Lender Processing Services and Tampa-based Pro-Vest. Lender Processing Services donated $40,000, mostly to Republican candidates, in 2010, including Bondi, and another $36,500 to the Republican Party of Florida.
Under Bondi's predecessor, Bill McCollum, both Clarkson and Edwards had received positive job evaluations from the attorney general. At least on the surface, it is curious that the two veteran staff lawyers' job performance could so badly deteriorate only two months into Bondi's time in office to justify their forced resignations. Bondi recently has raised concerns over the documentation critical of Clarkson and Edwards that was used to force their departure. An independent inspector general investigation is needed to make sure due process, fairness and most of all justice is guaranteed — especially at, of all places, the Florida Attorney General's Office.