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By Valerie Kalfrin
The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - U.S. Attorney Paul Perez, who supervised the Middle District of Florida, which includes Tampa, announced his resignation today to work for a billion-dollar insurance corporation.
Perez’s resignation is effective March 30. He begins work April 2 at Fidelity National Financial Inc. in Jacksonville as its chief compliance officer. Perez will be responsible for the title insurance business’ adherence to state and federal regulations.
The resignation announcement came the same day Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said “mistakes were made” regarding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, some of whom allege they felt political pressure regarding pending cases.
That scandal did not affect his decision, Perez said. His announcement is “just bad timing,” he said.
As a U.S. Attorney, “you serve at the pleasure of the President, but you know you don’t get appointed for life,” Perez said in a phone interview today. “I wanted to make sure I left on my own terms.”
Perez considered among the accomplishments during his tenure serving on the Attorney General’s subcommittee on civil rights and pushing human trafficking prosecutions. He was also proud of prosecuting former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, who in May pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate a federal law involving fund-raising for a terrorist organization. Even though Al-Arian was acquitted on some charges and others resulted in a hung jury, “ultimately, we exposed him for what I believe he was, which is a white-collar terrorist,” Perez said.
Perez said he will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to discuss his possible replacement with the Attorney General.
Perez was appointed to U.S. Attorney in March 2002 and earned about $143,000 annually. He said he will earn “considerably more” working for Fidelity National Financial.
He and the company have been discussing the job since the summer. Peter Sadowski, the company’s general counsel, said he met Perez at a swearing-in ceremony where both were speakers and pitched the idea to him.
Perez is known around Jacksonville as “an outstanding person” who has an unimpeachable reputation, the experience managing a large number of people, and who “understands the significance of doing the right thing,” Sadowski said.
The publicly-owned company has more than 17,000 employees and does business in more than 50 countries, Sadowski said. Its revenues for 2006 reached almost $6.5 billion, he said.