Special prosecutor asks for extension in Shirk investigation

Matt Shirk
Matt Shirk

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The investigation into Public Defender Matt Shirk is taking longer than expected.

Special Prosecutor Bill Cervone is asking Gov. Rick Scott for more time to look into suspected improprieties in Shirk's office.

Shirk's office became clouded in controversy in 2013 over the firing of some employees and allegations of deleted public records.

Cervone initially said he would wrap up the investigation in 60 to 90 days, or at least by February.

It's July and already he said it's going to take more time.

It all started back in 2013 after a Florida Times-Union investigation revealed two investigators in the Public Defender's Office quit over Shirk's hiring of three women -- two of whom worked at Whisky River nightclub at the St. Johns Town Center.

The story got more messy when the paper's investigation revealed Shirk's wife confronted one of the women inside the public defender's office.

Questions were raised about how the office was being run.

On Aug. 29, Scott appointed Cervone to investigate the office and the deletion of public records.

On Sept. 11, dozens of documents were released for the first time, including this email exchange between Shirk and one of the women he hired:

"T.L. Ice wrote: Let's get a group together and do Vegas for our birthdays.
Shirk writes back: Ha! that would be fun."

On Sept. 25, more documents were released.

Almost a month later, on Oct. 18, phone records between Shirk and some of his staff were released to the public.

And by December Shirk's problems hit home -- literally -- when his wife, Michelle, filed for divorce, saying their 10-year marriage was "irretrievably broken."

Cervone said he needs the extra time for several reasons, including scheduling interviews with witnesses and dealing with his workload in the 8th Circuit.

There's no word on when the governor will respond to Cervone's request.

Shirk's attorney, Gene Nichols, said he was aware of the extension request and issued this statement: "As always, Mr. Shirk has fully cooperated with this investigation, as has his entire staff. However, we are hopeful for a resolution in the very near future."