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Soto plans amendment to stop 'revolving door' of investigators to companies under investigation

Remember the tweet that roared -- the one that prompted Attorney General Pam Bondi to appear at a Senate committee meeting? The issue will return. State Sen. Darren Soto has filed an amendment to the Senate ethics reform package to be voted on in the Senate Community Affairs Committee Wednesday that would revive his proposal to end the revolving door of lawyers and investigators who leave the attorney general's office and go to work for the companies they had investigated.  Download 02.05.13 amendmentdraft35850 - Integrity of Investigations in CA (1)

Soto, D-Orlando, and two other Democrats filed the proposal last year but it never got a hearing. The proposal is aimed at stopping the practice that came to light after attorneys working for former Attorney General Bill McCollum went to work for companies that specialized in foreclosure law and services that were the subject of an attorney general's investigation.

"Right now, the attorney general doesn't have the authority to stop those folks because of Florida Bar rules,'' Soto said. 

The Senate ethics reform package includes a series of changes to current law, including expanding the "revolving door" provisions that prohibit legislators and staff from going to work for companies lobbying the legislature and executive branch for two years after they leave office.

Soto said his bill is needed because after McCollum launched a probe into the mortgage services company Lender Processing Services, his chief of staff, Joe Jacquot, took a job with the company.

Other lawyers who oversaw the mortgage probe went to work for related companies. For example, Mary Leontakianakos, who headed up McCollum's economic crimes division, took a job with the Fort Lauerdale law firm of Marshall Watson which signed a settlement with the state after the probe into its foreclosure activity. 

Bondi, who succeeded McCollum, removed Erin Cullaro, an assistant attorney general, from her role in the economic crimes unit. She had previously worked for the Florida Default Law Group, another firm investigated for its foreclosure practices.