Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Termination
The U.S. Department of Justice has been asked to investigate the termination of two lawyers from the Florida Attorney General's office. They had played a key role in fighting foreclosure fraud in Florida. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- You may not recognize Theresa Edwards or June Clarkson, but they were key in discovering massive fraud in Florida.
As assistant attorney generals they discovered Florida foreclosure mills were using phony signatures on legal documents.
Carmel Cafiero: "And so it was just bogus people signing bogus documents being used against honest people?"
June Clarkson: "Yes."
Those fabricated documents were then used to take away homes in foreclosure cases.
June Clarkson, Former Assistant Attorney General: "We were getting our information and getting to the bottom of a lot of very interesting facts."
This was the first time the two agreed to be interviewed for TV. The women say they were told to quit or be fired late one Friday afternoon, and were then locked out of the office.
Theresa Edwards, Former Assistant Attorney General: "And to be treated like you're a thief or something that was very shocking."
Carmel Cafiero: "They worked out of this downtown Fort Lauderdale building and say they always got good job performance reviews. They say the only negative they ever heard was when a supervisor told them there was talk in Tallahassee that they were being too tough on the politically connected lawyers representing companies they were investigating."
Clarkson and Edwards say they're supposed to be strong advocates.
Theresa Edwards: "I'm representing the consumers of the state of Florida and I'm trying to protect them from people who are involved in unfair and deceptive trade practices. And that's our job and that's what I was hired for. I was hired because I am an aggressive litigator."
Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi and her office turned down our request for an on camera interview.
In earlier written statements her office indicated Edwards and Clarkson were failing to meet expectations, and that shortcomings included professionalism to opposing counsel. That said, Bondi has also asked for an investigation this one through the state's chief financial officer.
Senator Eleanor Sobel: "Here's a firing that has potential political implications."
State senator Eleanor Sobel, a Democrat is so concerned she and another legislator have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric holder to investigate.
Senator Eleanor Sobel: "What June and Theresa were doing crossed party lines. They were helping all people. There was no politics in it. The Attorney General's Office should be void of politics."
Theresa Edwards: "It was so sudden."
Meanwhile, the lawyers are concerned about their cases. They say they were pushed out so fast there was no chance to leave transition memos to bring new lawyers up to speed.
Theresa Edwards: "We were both absolutely stunned."
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you think the public is going to be harmed as a result even more?"
June Clarkson: "Well, we hope not."
And while all this plays out, Florida's foreclosure crisis continues without an end in sight.
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