Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gelber calls Aronberg camp's criticism of his timed departure from law firm representing BP as "absurd"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 9:14 AM

click to enlarge Gelber Speech

Yesterday we posted several exchanges between the Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg campaigns, as the first real fissure in an otherwise genteel campaign for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General broke out in a fury, beginning Monday night when the Aronberg camp called on Gelber to resign from his place of employment, the law firm of Akerman Senterfitt, which over the last month has taken on much hated BP as a client.

As the New York Times' Damien Cave reports today, the oil spill crises has been a boon and a bust for many politicians, including here in Florida.  Cave accurately points out that gubernatorial candidates Alex Sink and Bill McCollum have both been prominent in calling out BP, and Charlie Crist has gained in the polls as well (though for our money he hasn't done much substantively other than look "gubernatorial" which has given him advantage over Senate opponent Marco Rubio).

In any event, for a possible Attorney General in Florida  to be associated with a firm that they will probably in litigation for years with is not a good thing, which is why Gelber said he resigned last Thursday from the firm, weeks after he learned about the new relationship his firm had with BP.

And he says Aronberg's camp knew that on Monday night, when they sent out a press release calling on him to step down.

"I can't figure out his argument," Gelber told CL last night at a fund raiser in his honor in Tampa.  "There's no question about it, I quit last Thursday.  It's almost an absurd debate," Gelber said.

Yesterday CL posted comments by a spokesperson for the Aronberg campaign, Allison North Jones, who said in part that Gelber's timeline was shaky, since he told the publication Daily Business Review on June 15 that any potential conflicts with the company were a "non-issue", in reference to the fact that he has been leading the charge for the Legislature to vote on putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban near shore drilling off of Florida's waters.

Gelber said he heard in early June that Akerman Senterfit was "jockeying" with BP on representing them, and then learned in early June that the firm had picked up that business.  But he said after working with the firm for 25 years, there was no way he could quit overnight, and so he spent a few weeks preparing clients that he would have to leave, which he did last Thursday.  "You don't let clients know you're leaving through the newspaper," he said.

"There are no conflicts," he says.  "We're not associates or shareholders....It's all pretty silly, since nobody had called on me to resign."

Gelber's job at Akerman has been his main source of income for over two decades.  So what will he do now for work?  The Miami Beach state Senator says it's all about his campaign for Attorney General.

Gathered at last night's fundraiser at Mis en Place included former Congressman Jim Davis (who said it will be months before he will decide on whether to run for mayor in Tampa), City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern, former state representative Bob Henriquez, former city councilman John Dingfelder, and Democratic party strategist Steve Shale, now currently working with the Alex Sink campaign.

There are now 55 days left before Democratic party voters will go to the polls to choose between Gelber and Aronberg.  Whether this little fuss about Gelber will mean something then remains to be seen.

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