Report: Shirk fired 3 young women he recently employed

Records in Public Defender's Office deleted, report says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Published reports in the Florida Times-Union raise questions of Public Defender Matt Shirk's hiring practices.

Allegations have been raised about Shirk and how he fired three young women he recently employed.

"It is certainly troubling and embarrassing," Jacksonville attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters said.

The report said after Shirk's wife, Michelle, became aware of the hiring, she went into the office telling one of the women she was fired. Shortly afterward, records show the women -- Kayle Chester, Krystal Coggins and Tiffany Ice -- were let go, according to the report.

There are also allegations of a cover-up about Michelle Shirk going into the office by members of the Public Defender's Office. Document released Wednesday show her access information was deleted from public files. Channel 4, however, optioned a backup copy from City Hall.

DOCUMENT: Public Defender's Office letter

The entire matter has caught the attention of the governor's office, which issued a statement calling the accusations troubling.

The local Democratic office is calling for the governor to suspend Shirk.

The Public Defender's Office handles court cases for those who can't afford an attorney and face criminal charges.

Peoples-Waters used to work in the office with Shirk before he was elected public defender. She said she's sorry to see this happen but said there is a bigger issue: the clients.

"It affects morale in that office and it effects the public appearance of what is going on in that office," Peoples-Waters said. "So certainly it's a concern to any of us that are citizens."

The governor's office on Wednesday said there had been no new action. The state's Commission on Ethics said so far it has no public records on Shirk and could not comment if it did.

The Bar Association said because Shirk is elected, he no longer falls under its jurisdiction.

"It's a black eye when our eyes really need to be looking forward to budgeting concerns and making sure these people are having the proper representation," Peoples-Waters said.

State Attorney Angela Corey sent a letter to the governor Wednesday asking that her office be recused from looking into this matter.

About the Author: