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Public Defender calls former employee 'garbage' for alleging office misconduct
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Public Defender calls former employee 'garbage' for alleging office misconduct

Public Defender calls former employee 'garbage' for alleging office misconduct
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
Public Defender Matt Shirk sent this text message to former Chief Investigator Alton Kelly

Public Defender calls former employee 'garbage' for alleging office misconduct

Thousands of pages of emails, texts and other documents are highlighting some of the problems contained in allegations facing our Public Defender.

Our partner Action News first opened a now-ongoing investigation in to Public Defender Matt Shirk, finding allegations he improperly hired and fired employees, gave his wife key card access to the building, and allowed drinking in the office. Through a records request from Action News, I’ve found a trail of similar problems.

Alton Kelly served as the Chief Investigator in Shirk’s Office before resigning over what he believes is the improper hiring and firing of several female employees. He first told our partner Action News about the alleged misconduct in Shirk’s office.  A chain of text messages between the two released today show that Shirk was not happy with Kelly speaking out about these issues, saying he was violating “a defined chain of command in this office”. A later text from Kelly to Shirk tenders his resignation, and Shirk responds minutes later saying he’s “disappointed” in the text and “frankly very upset” about what had happened in the month between the two exchanges.  They then exchange thoughts on the personal issues Shirk was facing at the time before agreeing a few days later to meet up.

“Hey buddy, I’m really upset how things have turned out between us. Can we meet later this week to talk?” Shirk texted Kelly on July 22.

Just over one month later, when Action News began reporting the problems alleged in Shirk’s Office, Shirk sent a lengthy text to Kelly.

“And to think what I’ve done for you giving you a job paying $85k a year and it was about the most cushion job i could give to someone. and our friendship. And then when you left I paid out your leave time because of the friendship because i didnt have to and had not for many other employees. and this is how you repay me? This how you much my family means to you? You are a no good backstabbing piece of garbage with ZERO integrity. ZERO. I always knew you were a lier but I could deal with it. But you are something else.”

No further texts have been released at this time, however Kelly tells Action News he is confident the investigation now underway by a special prosecutor appointed by Governor Rick Scott will show the truth.

A truth that is becoming more clear in part by emails which were also released today.

Multiple emails between Shirk and one employee, Tiffany Ice, talk about a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate Ice’s “DIRTY 30” birthday.  He was also part of a chain of emails talking about wine that had been dropped off in the office.  Shirk has admitted to allowing drinking in his office during off-hours or off-the-clock times, which is against city law.

Ice and two other women were fired within about one week of each other after an alleged confrontation between Ice and Shirk’s wife over a text message.  There are many emails between Matt Shirk and Ice talking about grabbing coffee.  Ice also asks Shirk for many favors, like reviewing a friend’s resume, giving advice on a private school and talking about a case involving a family friend seeking home detention.  Despite that, Shirk wrote an email to his chief of staff just before midnight on Sunday, June 16, saying Ice should be terminated.

“I think we need to get rid of her. She’s been a horrible employee from the beginning. We can’t wait on her. Please terminate her tomorrow as well. Thx! matt”, reads the email.

Two employees who Shirk had hired from Whiskey River just a few weeks earlier were terminated the next day. Ice was terminated the next week.

We continue to work through the thousands of pages and press for answers about Shirk’s conduct and the ability of the office to perform its duties. We will continue to bring you the latest information as it becomes available.

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