Jacksonville public defender under fire

Questions about deleted records in Matt Shirk's office


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's controversy around Jacksonville Public Defender Matt Shirk, and questions of whether records in his office were deleted.

Reports came out in the Florida Times-Union that Shirk's wife, Michelle, went to the office and allegedly told a female in Shirk's office that they were fired. The report said an employee deleted electronic records that showed Michelle Shirk was in the office that day. 

The series of events has prompted the Duval County Democratic Chairman Neil Henrichsen to call for Shirk to be suspended, pending an investigation.

"It's an issue of real public concern when you have a public official that represents all the people in the county engaging in what appears to be improper acts," said Henrichsen.

Henrichsen is also calling for the governor's office to investigate the matter. 

Channel 4 received a statement from the Governor's office Tuesday night:

"The allegations reported by the Florida Times Union are troubling, and if true, would be inconsistent with the high standards of ethical behavior Governor Scott expects from public officials."

Henrichsen told Channel 4 that he has not received a response from the Governor's office.

"The governor has the right, under the constitution, to suspend county officers for improper acts," said Henrichsen.

Shirk is also being looked at for the staffing in his office. The TU report said that Shirk had hired two female employees from Whisky River Night Club and Restaurant. The report went on to question Shirk's relationship with those women. 

Channel 4 went to Whisky River Tuesday night to see if anyone had information about the women Shirk hired. One of the employees there told Channel 4's Scott Johnson that one of the women in question is a "sweet girl" who "got a job there and was really excited about it." The employee added that it was "expletive that her name is out there online."

As for what is happening in the Shirk home, the public defender has said his family is off limits, but critics say that his job is not.

"He's a republican. You're head of democratic party. Is this a political ploy?" asked Channel 4's Scott Johnson.

"Absolutely not," said Henrichsen. "This is bipartisan issue. Issue for taxpayers not to have abuse of office like this occur."