Aronberg campaign manager blasts Gelber on timing of resignation

Gelber goes on to say that he has in fact called for a constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot this fall that would ban offshore drilling in state waters.  The call has been for Governor Charlie Crist to call a special session to have the Legislature vote on the issue (Gelber has been joined in the House by St. Pete's Rick Kriseman and Sarasota's Keith Fitzgerald on that call).

But the Times reports that that Gelber told the Daily Business Review on June 15 that the fact that his firm was representing BP was a "non-issue."   Gelber actually said that

Akerman has over 400 lawyers and handles tens of thousands of cases,” he said. “I am of counsel to the firm and not a partner. I know nothing about the case, nor will I ever. I have publicly demanded that BP be held accountable for their gross negligence and for the pain they have inflicted on our state’s economy and environment, and will continue to do so aggressively.”

But in the same article, an ethics professor says that those lawmaker/legislators probably should resign (the firm also employs state senators Alex Villalobos, Joe Negron and house representative Joe Gibbons).

But Bob Jarvis, who teaches legal ethics at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center, said that not only is there a potential conflict for the four legislators but they may have to resign from Akerman.

“I don’t think there’s any question that right now you do not want to be associated with BP if you’re in the political arena,” he said. “It’s certainly something an opponent would try to use against you."

Gelber told the Times that he waited a couple of weeks to resign in order to inform clients and help transition them to new attorneys.

UPDATE:  The Dave Aronberg team is reacting strongly to Dan Gelber's press release issued earlier this morning (read below) regarding his resignation from Akerman Senterfitt, the law firm he has been employed with, weeks after that firm began defending disgraced oil giant BP here in Florida.

Alison North Jones is Aronberg's campaign manager.  Speaking to CL shortly after noon today, she said that Gelber is trying to spin the media and others by criticizing Aronberg for his press release last night, calling on Gelber to resign from the firm for their representing BP.

Gelber said he resigned last Thursday, but nobody knew that until last night when he told the St. Pete Times. (Gelber said that he waited a couple of weeks to resign in order to inform clients and help transition them to new attorneys).

But Jones questioned that today, saying, "Dan Gelber needs to point the finger at himself.  It's not about Dave Aronberg, and why it took 2 months for him to step down.  We certainly were not privy to any move made by Dan Gelber or his political campaign…we would be the last to know about his resignation (last week)We’ve known about this beginning in June (that his law firm had agreed to represent BP).

"In terms of his resignation..we found out about his alleged resignation when he responded to us," Jones said, questioning Gelber's statement saying that he resigned last week. "When was the resignation letter sent to the shareholders at the firm? When did he stop receiving a paycheck? When did he get a severance?  Our statement had nothing to do with any actions by Dan Gelber.  It was the result of inaction by Dan Gelber."

Senator Gelber will be in Tampa later today, where we hope to hear more from him about this story.

(Read below for our original post on the story).

The race for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General between state Senators Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg has been a pretty gentlemanly affair - until now.

Last night the St. Pete Times reported that Gelber had resigned from his law firm, Akerman Senterfitt, last Thursday, after BP hired the firm to represent it in the oil claims process.

But the announcement that he had left the firm came hours after the Aronberg camp had called on Gelber to do so.  Aronberg said in a press release that,

"Working for the law firm that is defending British Petroleum for damage done to Florida beaches is disqualifying.  You don't have to be a lawyer to know that you can't both profit from the polluter and then represent those who have been injured by that same polluter."

Gelber has just released a statement defending himself.  In it he says that some of his "closest advisers" had told him to call a press conference last week and "pat myself on the back for taking a principled stand."  He goes on to say:

But I didn't because doing the right thing is never a cause for celebration. But unfortunately, last night, my opponent in the primary, in what could only be considered a rank political stunt, decided to politicize the tragic oil spill calling on me to resign even after I had already done so. Sadly, while I continue to offer real solutions to hold BP accountable and help victims impacted by the spill, my opponent is focused on scoring political points.  The stakes in this race are too important for politics as usual and I really hoped this campaign, unlike so many others, would remain on the high road.  

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