Lawyer for ‘meritless’ audit petition over Pulse nightclub victims’ donations leaves firm

By Michelle de Leon | Nov 4, 2016

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – The attorney who filed for an audit lawsuit on behalf of one of the victims of the June 12 Pulse nightclub shooting incident has cut ties with his law firm.

Paul Zeniewicz, who represents Pulse shooting survivor Jillian Amador, left Cohen Grossman – Attorneys at Law in September. While the law firm refused to give out more details on the exit of the controversial lawyer, it was revealed that the decision was mutual. For his part, Zeniewicz himself assured the public that his exit was voluntary and there was no disagreement between him and his former firm. Zeniewicz came into the spotlight when he agreed to represent Amador, a Pulse shooting survivor and his co-worker at Cohen Grossman at the time. In their petition, they requested an audit of the money received through the OneOrlando Fund. The donations, which reached $29.5 million, were intended for the victims of the massacre.

Amador is a paralegal at Cohen Grossman. She was one of the guests in the Pulse nightclub on the night of the shooting. Amid the attack, she was able to flee the scene and seek medical attention. However, most of her companions that night died in the club.

According to court documents, Amador and Zeniewicz wanted the organization handling the donations to conduct an audit prior to the disbursement of the money. In their petition, they cited the fund’s pledge to conduct the project with “transparency” as the basis of their request. Zeniewicz further noted that the implementation of a pre-disbursement audit would provide a clearer picture to the public and the beneficiaries. That is, the organizers of the initiative would be able to provide proof that 100 percent of the money donated would be distributed to the Pulse victims’ families and loved ones.

"In short, we simply want to hold the fund and its administrator accountable to their stated mission: to collect and distribute the funds in an open, fair and transparent manner," Zeniewicz explained in an email sent to the Orlando Sentinel. He added, "A pre(disbursement) audit is absolutely necessary to make sure that the fund is distributing 100 percent of the monies collected ... to the victims and victims' families."

Apart from their petition to conduct an audit on the funds collected, Amador and Zeniewicz also raised questions on the credibility of OneOrlando fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg. The lawyer further alleged that the amount of donations declared was lower than the ones actually collected. Despite his claims, no evidence was revealed to prove the statement. The lawsuit, which was initiated in August, was dismissed in September.

"This meritless attempt to delay victim compensation and tarnish the reputation of Mr. Feinberg should be dismissed,” wrote the lawyer representing Feinberg in a motion, according to WFTV. He added, "The court should admonish Ms. Amador's counsel for his noncompliance with Florida law and his obligation as a Florida lawyer."

Zeniewicz is reported to have backed down from submitting an appeal over the dismissal of his petition. According to Mike Amazonian of WFTV, Amador’s representative plans to simply wait for the audit review scheduled after the disbursement of funds to the affected families.

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