Democratic Party chair calls for Shirk's resignation

Public defender investigated for alcohol in office, inappropriate texts

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Alcohol in the office and inappropriate texts to female employees are just two reasons why the head of Jacksonville's Democratic Party is calling for the resignation of Republican Public Defender Matt Shirk.

Shirk has been under fire since the Florida Times-Union reported about a brewing scandal involving the hiring and firing of three young women.

He has yet to speak to Channel 4 despite repeated attempts for comment.

Shirk told the Times-Union there had been drinking in his office, but those involved were off the clock and there were no shots being done. That admission by him is now raising eyebrows because city law stipulates unless there is a special permit, drinking alcohol in city buildings is not allowed.

That's one reason why Democratic Party Chairman Neil Henrichsen says Shirk should resign right now.

"He has admitted to infractions of the law, violations of the law," Henrichsen said. "He has admitted to inappropriate texts to women in his office and there are probably lots of other things going on that are under investigation. At this point, this important public law office is compromised and he should resign immediately."

Gov. Rick Scott also weighed in on Shirk during his stop in northeast Florida on Wednesday.

"I appointed a special prosecutor, State Attorney Bill Cervone," Scott said. "We expect all our elected officials to do the right thing, to live up to the high standards, and it's something we should be looking at."

Cervone said he hopes to do that and maybe wrap up his investigation in 90 days.

Mayor Alvin Brown was asked about Shirk as well.

"I think that is a state issue," he said. "I think the state is working with it. Obviously the governor is on top of it. Let it go though the process. ... I am not going to get into what he should or should not do. Gov. Scott already appointed someone to look into it and review it. Let the process take care of itself."

Shirk has been in the office all week, according to public records, but hasn't been available to speak with Channel 4.

According to records that show how often he used his security badge to get in the building, there were huge gaps in June and July when the alleged events with the female staffers occurred. Shirk said he was just buzzed in by security and staff during those times. Channel 4 has asked if that is policy and has not yet received an answer.

The city of Jacksonville operates the badge system, but a spokesman said the city doesn't control who gets the badges for the public defender.

City spokesman Dave DeCamp said that office doesn't have to follow city rules on badges.

According to city rules, any misuse of badges on or off duty may result in disciplinary action.

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