Dems Pile Pressure on Pam Bondi Over Foreclosure Firings
Around the State
The dispute over the recent firing of two state foreclosure fraud attorneys led some state Democrats to call for a federal review of the matter Wednesday, even though state Attorney General Pam Bondi is already calling for an external investigation.
Bondi and her deputies dismissed Economic Crimes Division prosecutors Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson in May. The pair -- hired by former Attorney General Bill McCollum -- recently obtained a $2 million settlement in a prosecution of faulty foreclosure methods, and have received positive reviews, but Bondi has stood by her office’s decision to fire them for “poor performance.”
State Democrats suspect a political motivation for the firings. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, sent letters Wednesday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, asking the Department of Justice to look into the dismissal of the attorneys.
“These terminations have been the subject of numerous articles and intense public outcry in light of the extensive mortgage fraud that has occurred in this state and the possibility that these terminations may have been motivated by outside special interests,” the letter reads in part.
Clarkson and Edwards submitted their own version of events along with the letters. They claim they were given 90 minutes to decide whether to resign or be fired by South Florida Bureau Chief Robert Julian. They ultimately submitted short resignation letters.
"We asked the reason for this sudden, unexpected and shocking news and (Julian) said that he had asked and was told that no reason was being given and that the firings 'came from the top,'" Clarkson and Edwards wrote.
Bondi isn‘t afraid of an investigation. She wrote to Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Wednesday asking him to appoint an inspector general to look into the matter.
“I write to ask that you authorize your inspector general to conduct an independent review of the employment termination of June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards. My hope is that your inspector general would produce a written, public report of his findings and any appropriate recommendations,” Bondi wrote. The letter is attached below.
But Soto doesn’t have much faith in any external investigation run by the state. He stated Tuesday, after Bondi announced her intention to ask for an investigation, that a federal review is needed.
“Attorney General Pam Bondi’s admission today that there should be an investigation into her termination of two attorneys who have led foreclosure fraud investigations is a slow-coming acknowledgment and a step in the right direction. But I believe a truly independent investigation is warranted, which may require a review by authorities outside of Florida,” Soto said.
One Tallahassee political consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, "This is all great drama, all theater -- it's the kind of thing either party loves to see in an election year. Never mind that Bondi is asking for an investigation in the full light of day. If one party can make a high-ranking member of the other party look like some kind of a criminal conspirator who has ruined innocent lives and protected the rich and powerful ... it's all good political grist to the mill.
"It gets so noisy that the truth won't be the truth by the time it's told."
Reach Gray Rohrer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859. Nancy Smith contributed to this story.