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Florida lawmakers launch probe into LPS hiring of AG staffer

[Update 1: Adds Bondi statement] [Update 2: Adds memo from Jacquot to AG] Two Florida state lawmakers launched a probe into why some members of Attorney General Pam Bondi's staff went to work for companies under investigation and others were dismissed. Last October, then Florida AG Bill McCollum began looking into several foreclosure law firms and the default services provider Lender Processing Services (LPS) for the alleged forgery of foreclosure documents. The new AG Pam Bondi took over in January and has since struck a settlement with the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, while the other investigations remain pending. Watson recently hired former Broward County Chief Judge Victor Tobin as general counsel. In May, Joe Jacquot, Bondi's special counsel, left the AG office to become a senior vice president at LPS. Erin Cullaro, a former assistant AG, went to work for Shapiro & Fishman, one of the law firms under investigation. Then one week after Jacquot's move, Bondi's office dismissed June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, two of the lead foreclosure fraud investigation attorneys on staff. According to reports, only months earlier both Clarkson and Edwards received stellar grades on their performance reviews. Florida State Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) and state Rep. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) requested all communications, including Blackberry transmissions, emails and text messages involving these attorneys and LPS employees. Sobel and Soto also requested a list of attendees at a meeting they said took place March 4 between LPS and investigators from Bondi's office. "This supplemental information request is a sincere attempt to help determine what happened in regards to these dismissals," Soto said. "The public deserves a thorough explanation." In a memo to McCollum obtained by HousingWire dated Oct. 28, 2010, Jacquot recused himself from the LPS investigation. "As is true for all former state government employees, Joe Jacqout is prohibited from engaging with  the  Florida Attorney General’s office on behalf of his new employer, LPS,  for two years," an LPS spokesperson said. Bondi's office, too, said Jacquot was never invovled in the foreclosure investigation. "While these requests are politically motivated and not made in good faith, we will, of course, comply with public records law," a spokesperson in Bondi's office said. Her office added while Jacquot was the deputy attorney general under McCollum, his only responsibility under Bondi was transitioning healthcare litigation from the trial to the appellate phase. "Under the current administration, he supervised no one," the spokesperson said. "He did not consult with the current administration in advance on where he has interviewing or on where he intended to work after leaving our office. And, of course, he was under no obligation to share that information with the administration." Sobel still called the personnel movement "troubling." "Given the powerful ties, the high stakes, and the thousands of Florida homeowners on the line, many of whom I represent, the dismissal of June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, and the ties between Tallahassee and these companies are critical," Sobel said. "The troubling questions surrounding these firings not only beg closer scrutiny, but deserve substantiated answers." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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