JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A renewed call for change in the Public Defender’s Office.
Public Defender Matt Shirk told the Times-Union that drinking took place in his office, off hours. The office is considered a city building, making that an illegal act in itself.
This is just one of many accusations facing Shirk, which also include inappropriate relationships with female employees, improper hiring/firing, giving access to the building to family members, and mishandling public records. The allegations have prompted the Governor to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the office.
Now, Duval County’s Democratic Party Chair Neil Henrichsen is calling on Shirk to resign.
“This is not a Democratic or a Republican party issue, it’s an issue of good government,” he says.
Henrichsen says all the controversy around the office makes it impossible for the public to have any trust in the Public Defender to do his job.
“It [the Public Defender’s Office] represents the most vulnerable, the poor in our community who can’t afford legal counsel- it plays an integral role in the justice system,” Henrichsen says.
He says the only way to turn around the trust issue is for Shirk to step down.
State Attorney Bill Cervone is currently investigating Shirk’s Office and a legal team out of Rogers Towers has been taken on to review the Office’s handling of public records and requests. Henrichsen wants to see the investigation play out, but doesn’t think Shirk should wait until then to act.
We have reached out to The Public Defender’s Office for comment but have not yet heard back.