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Governor questioned about Matt Shirk's ability to run Public Defender's Office

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Updated: 9/11/2013 8:45 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Is public defender Matt Shirk fit for office?  Action News took that question straight to Governor Rick Scott today.

The governor has already ordered a special investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior by the elected leader and top lawyer for the District 4 Public Defender's Office.

Action News investigator Lynnsey Gardner has been investigating for much longer, and tonight she has new interoffice emails from Shirk and answers from the governor.

Gardner asked the governor about the case today.  "Do you think the public defender should be suspended pending investigation based on his own admission of wrongdoing?"
Governor Scott replied, "It's being investigated by Bill Cervone, the state attorney. That's the right process to go through so I'm waiting to see what happens with that."

Bill Cervone is the State Attorney based in Gainesville, specially appointed after Jacksonville-based state attorney Angela Corey recused herself from the case.

Shirk admitting to drinking in the office.  That is a violation of city code.

Today, our open records request yielded this email between Shirk and his staff talking about wine in the office earlier this year.

We also found a response from Shirk to an email about a business issue from a recent public defender's conference.  Blair Payne, the public defender from Lake City writes Shirk personally: "How do you know. You were soaked in martini juice."

What's more, Shirk then forwards that email to an employee, Kayle Chester.

He says, “OMG I guess everyone notices that I drink a lot of martini's. ha!”

That was sent on June 4, 2013. Action News obtained this other email Shirk sent to Chester that same day “You are awesome Chesty! Thanks.”

Chester had worked for him for just two weeks. She's one of two women Shirk hired from the Whisky River Bar and Restaurant this summer. Both women, along with a third, were all soon terminated. On June 12, sources say Shirk's wife found a questionable text in Shirk's phone. The next day, Shirk emails his staff in the morning that his phone is no longer working.

He also says he will not be in the office that day in another email, but records show his wife did access the building.

Sources say she walked in and confronted Tiffany Ice about a text sent on Thursday, June 13. The next day, Shirk's chief of staff, Ron Mallett, reassigned Ice.

Records show Shirk did not access his office the rest of the week. But, on that Sunday, June 16, Father’s Day, Shirk wrote this email to Mallett at almost midnight:
Subject: Tiffany Ice.
I think we need to get rid of her. She's been a horrible employee from the beginning. We can't wait on her. Please terminate her tomorrow as well.

The next day, both Whiskey River women were fired.

Another email Action News obtained shows Kayle Chester's surprise at the discovery that she lost her job.

She writes to Matt Shirk, "So I get to work and all of my stuff is in boxes.  Am I fired?"  Shirk forwarded that email to his wife.

Ice was terminated the next week. Records show Shirk's presence in the office has been spotty since the blow up in June, sometimes missing weeks on end.

Shirk is still refusing to answer our questions.

So, we had one more question for the governor: “Is Matt Shirk capable of running his office?”

Governor Scott's reply, "Right now, we’re doing the right thing. The state attorney is reviewing the allegations. Thank you everybody.”

The Governor gave the special prosecutor a year to investigate. Shirk is wrapping up his first year of re-election right now. His current term is up in 2016.
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

1country - 9/12/2013 4:31 PM
0 Votes
I think that if I was being defended by this guys office I would have to ask the judge for someone from another district !!

RetiredJSO - 9/12/2013 11:18 AM
0 Votes
You mean all the information that is not related to the case and was inadmissable as evidence. If it had been admitted there would have been a mistrial and we would be hearing about the trial all over again.

Realchange - 9/12/2013 9:51 AM
1 Vote
Why doesn't action news question the Governor about Corey and Judge Nelson withholding criminal activity by Trayvon Martin? They conspired to keep the jury from know that Martin had history of violence was shopping for street hand guns to make snitches bleed and more. How would you like to have to defend yourself and have these 2 trying their best to put you in jail when your story and the evidence showed you was telling the truth. Then find out they withheld crucial history and evidence to make every attempt to convict you.
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