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Nelson questions attorney's resignation

The U.S. attorney quit, but says it has nothing to do with eight controversial dismissals.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published March 28, 2007


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking a Senate committee to investigate whether the recent resignation of a Florida U.S. attorney is connected to the recent controversial dismissals at the Justice Department.

But Paul Perez, attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said there was no connection between his decision and the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

"I was not asked to resign, nor am I resigning in protest," Perez said Tuesday.

Nelson's concern stems from an August 2006 letter signed by Perez and 16 other U.S. attorneys asking the Justice Department to prioritize a data-sharing system for law-enforcement agencies, said Bryan Gulley, Nelson's spokesman.

In the letter, sent to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, the attorneys stressed the importance of the system, called the Law Enforcement Information Exchange, or LinX.

The five-page letter was made public as part of the investigation into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Also included was a terse e-mail response from McNulty, who called the letter distressing and said it didn't sound like it was from members of the same team.

Three of the attorneys who signed the letter were later fired: David Iglesias of New Mexico, John McKay of Washington and Carol Lam of California.

Gulley said Nelson isn't second-guessing Perez but he has concerns about the letter and wants the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure there isn't a connection.

"Is this a coincidence?" Gulley asked. "We don't know."

Perez said McNulty's response was the result of a misunderstanding. The attorneys planned to give McNulty a preview of the letter. When that wasn't done, McNulty took exception to some of the language. Perez said he and several other attorneys apologized for the oversight.

He characterized any attempt to link his resignation to the firings as political spin.

Perez served as U.S. attorney for five years in the Middle District, which includes Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Ocala. He plans to join the private sector at First National Financial Inc., which is based in Jacksonville.

Perez announced Tuesday that his first assistant, Jim Klindt, will be his interim replacement until a permanent appointment can be made.

Klindt, 51, has been with the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Florida since December of 1988.

He is a graduate of the University of South Florida who received his law degree from Florida State University. Klindt worked briefly for a private law firm in Orlando before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office.