Suspicion over AG's abrupt investigator firings grows listen07/28/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Florida is known nationally as an epicenter for foreclosure fraud. Earlier this year, two lawyers credited with uncovering the practice resigned at the insistence of Attorney General Pam Bondi. Some want the state to investigate the forced resignations.
Until this past spring, Attorneys June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards worked in the attorney general’s economic crimes division in Fort Lauderdale. Under Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum, they investigated several loan servicing companies accused of practices like robo-signing foreclosure documentation. Under new attorney general Pam Bondi, also a Republican, they were unexpectedly asked to resign or face termination in late March. Mark Ferrulo is executive director for liberal group Progress Florida.
He said their findings got national attention.
Ferrulo said his organization believes politics may have played a role, and that Progress Florida is currently circulating a petition that calls on the state Inspector General to investigate the Attorney General’s office for possible wrongdoing.
Ferrulo said what raises a red flag for him is the fact that one of the companies the two attorneys were investigating, Jacksonville-based Lender Processing Services, was backing GOP campaigns.
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office did not return requests for comment by deadline, but a spokesperson has been quoted as saying the two attorneys were asked to resign due to poor performance. Ferrulo said he thinks that means not playing nice with the lawyers for the firms they were investigating.
Bondi’s office also counters the claim that the departures were politically-motivated by saying that the economic crimes division is still rigorously investigating suspected foreclosure fraud. Ferrulo said time spent doesn’t always translate to perpetrators nabbed.
State Representative Darren Soto, an Orlando-area Democrat, has requested public records relating to the case, but hasn’t gone so far as to call for an investigation. He said his goal is to get foreclosure fraud investigations back on track.
Representative Soto said foreclosure fraud in Florida seems like it could potentially warrant significant legal action.
Lender Processing Services did not respond to an interview request. Progress Florida’s petition to the inspector general can be found at progressflorida.org.