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2010-11-09

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Andrew Shirvell, creator of derisive anti-gay blog, fired by Attorney General's Office

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By Nicole Aber, Daily News Editor
Published November 8, 2010

This is a developing story. Keep checking michigandaily.com for more updates.

Andrew Shirvell — the Michigan assistant attorney general engulfed in a firestorm of criticism after he created a blog attacking Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong — has been fired by the attorney general's office.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox wrote in a statement released this afternoon that Shirvell "was fired for conduct unbecoming a state employee."

Cox wrote that Shirvell wasn't fired for exercising his First Amendment rights, but rather for "harassing conduct," among other reasons.

"The cumulative effects of his use of state resources, harassing conduct that is NOT protected by the First Amendment, and his lies during the disciplinary conference all demonstrate adequate evidence of conduct unbecoming a state employee," Cox wrote in the statement.

According to the press release, Shirvell went to Armstrong's house three times — one of which was at 1:30 a.m.

"That incident is especially telling because it clearly was about harassing Mr. Armstrong, not engaging in free speech," Cox wrote.

The former assistant attorney general's behavior also included "harassing Armstrong's friends as they were socializing in Ann Arbor" and "attempting to 'out' Armstrong's friends as homosexual — several of whom were not gay," Cox wrote.

Shirvell had been on a leave of absence since the story, which was first reported by the Daily in September, started attracting national headlines in late September.

This is a change from Cox's opinion on Shirvell's behavior last month, when the attorney general was on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. On the show, Cox said Shirvell's actions were protected by the First Amendment.

Shirvell's "use of state resources" included calling Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi's office — where Armstrong worked this past summer — during work hours, the press release states. Shirvell tried to get Armstrong fired from his job with Pelosi's office, according to Cox's statement.

Also, "Shirvell would, at times, post attacks on Armstrong on the Internet while at work," Cox wrote in the press release.

Shirvell is the creator of a blog titled Chris Armstrong Watch on which he has accused the MSA president of promoting a “radical homosexual agenda.”

The decision to fire Shirvell was also based on his dishonesty with other assistant attorneys general who investigated Shirvell's case throughout his disciplinary hearing, Cox wrote. The disciplinary hearing to determine Shirvell's employment status with the state's attorney general office began on Friday.

Deborah Gordon, Armstrong's lawyer, wrote in a statement released today that Shirvell must "realize there are consequences for his reckless, outrageous statements and actions..."

“This is clearly the correct decision by the attorney general’s office,” Gordon wrote. “The next step must be a complete retraction of all the malicious lies and fabrications by Mr. Shirvell, and a public apology to Chris Armstrong, his family and the others Mr. Shirvell has slandered.”

Calls to Shirvell's lawyer weren't immediately returned yesterday afternoon.

In a phone interview this evening, Gordon said Cox’s decision to fire Shirvell didn’t come as a surprise.

“I wasn’t surprised really because I looked into the matter,” she said. "I know the attorney general’s office has been doing a full investigation and there’s so much wrongdoing there."

Gordon said she assumes the panel at the disciplinary hearing “made a recommendation” to Cox regarding Shirvell’s employment status.

“I think it had to be an obvious end for him, for Shirvell,” Gordon said. “You can’t conduct yourself that way and remain an assistant attorney general.”

Gordon said she and Armstrong intend to follow through with their complaints to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission. They have requested an investigation of Shirvell’s recent actions and possible disciplinary action, up to and including potential disbarment.

Gordon said she also filed a supplemental complaint, including Shirvell’s blog, with the Attorney Grievance Commission on Friday. But there has yet to be any progress on the complaints filed, she said.

“Typically, it’s not a fast process,” Gordon said, adding that there isn’t a lot of precedent for a case of this nature.

Gordon said Shirvell should be disbarred due to his actions involving Armstrong.

“He should lose his right to practice law based on his behavior,” Gordon said. “You have to be trustworthy and reliable and I don’t see (that) that’s possible with him.”

In addition to pursuing the complaints with the Attorney Grievance Commission, Gordon said she and Armstrong are evaluating other “legal options.”

“We continue to look at our other legal options; no decisions have been made,” she said.

Gordon told the Daily last week that she and Armstrong believed Shirvell’s actions had been in violation of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct — a guide state attorneys must follow. This alleged violation led Gordon and Armstrong to file the complaints, she said at the time.

Shirvell was previously barred from setting foot on campus due to a trespass order issued by the University’s Department of Public Safety. However, the order was modified last Wednesday so that Shirvell can now be on campus but cannot attend events where Armstrong is present, including MSA meetings.

Gordon said DPS's trespass order modification was "sensible."

"I think it was a reasonable decision on their part," Gordon said. "That’s a tough issue, to bar people from campus completely; legally that’s a tough issue."


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