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Protesters join call for Saxon to quit

Waving placards and belting out full-throated chants, a community activist group marched into the Office of Financial Regulation's Miami office Thursday with a message for the state agency's chief: Resign.

The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, known as ACORN, demanded that Don Saxon, the state's top mortgage industry regulator, step down after a series of stories in The Miami Herald revealed more than 10,000 criminals were able to sell home loans in Florida -- many who went on to fleece consumers and lenders of millions of dollars.

Clad in red vests, nearly 20 protesters crowded into OFR's small seventh floor lobby to deliver a letter that also called for a dialogue to develop a new approach to regulating Florida's mortgage industry. "Everyone knows Florida is in a foreclosure crisis, " said Sheena Rolle, a special project director with ACORN. "Yet Don Saxon's asleep at the switch."

While the Miami demonstration was under way, another was held by ACORN at OFR's office in Orlando.

OFR spokeswoman Holly Hinson did not return calls Thursday.

The Financial Services Commission, which oversees the OFR, is set to meet next week to assess Saxon's leadership. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who sits on the four-person panel, already said Saxon should go. But the others -- Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson -- haven't taken positions.

A second group, the Florida office of the AARP, said earlier this week that Saxon should quit.

Brian Kettening, ACORN's Florida head organizer, said his organization is disappointed with OFR's lack of response to the state's unfolding mortgage crisis. At the last legislative session, he said OFR was "not a visible player" in efforts to tackle predatory lending despite repeated calls for change by consumers. His group set up a tent city in Tallahassee to underscore the gravity of the situation.

"There was no leadership from OFR in pushing for more aggressive action to stave off the foreclosure crisis, " said Kettening. He said OFR should have pushed harder for tougher predatory lending laws.

The group Thursday was greeted in OFR's lobby by investigator Eric Hutchinson, who promised to pass the letter along.