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AG's office: Shirvell took leave of office on own accord, will be subject to disciplinary hearing upon return

Marissa McClain/Daily
Andrew Shirvell speaks at an MSA meeting September 7, 2010. Buy this photo

Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 30, 2010

Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, is taking a leave of absence the attorney general's office said Friday. The move capped what had become a national news story after The Michigan Daily first reported in early September on Shirvell’s controversial blog that targeted Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong.

Shirvell announced his leave Thursday, but didn't say when he would return, according to Cox spokesman John Sellek.

Sellek told the Daily Friday afternoon that Shirvell took this leave on his own accord.

Upon returning to his position, Shirvell will be subject to a disciplinary hearing with his employer, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, according to Sellek, who was unable to comment further regarding specific details or potential outcomes of the hearing.

Cox, who previously defended Shirvell, told The Detroit News Thursday that he was wrong to stand by Shirvell and support his behavior toward Armstrong. The News had originally reported that he Shirvell had been suspended.

"I'm at fault here," Cox said in the article. "I've been saying for weeks that (Shirvell's) been acting like a bully, that his behavior is immature, but it's after-hours and protected by the First Amendment."

Cox told the News that he hadn’t read all of Shirvell’s blog when he made those comments.

Earlier in the day yesterday, the University administration and community rushed to stand by Armstrong amidst the growing controversy.

In a statement released to The Michigan Daily on Thursday, University President Mary Sue Coleman wrote that the administration supports Armstrong and opposes anyone who compromises the rights and safety of students.

“A high-profile situation involving one of our students is highlighting the importance of values that our institution holds dear,” Coleman wrote. “An individual has chosen to target the elected president of the U-M student body in a reprehensible manner.”

Shirvell started a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch shortly after Armstrong was elected in March. The blog — which he closed to all but "invited readers" on Thursday — accuses Armstrong of promoting a “radical homosexual agenda” on campus and makes contemptuous comments about Armstrong’s family and friends. Last month, Shirvell also spoke during the public comments portion of a Michigan Student Assembly meeting, calling Armstrong a racist and demanding his resignation.

At the meeting and during another confrontation on campus earlier in the year, Shirvell criticized Armstrong for joining the senior honor society Order of Angell. The organization has weathered criticism for allegedly using Native American artifacts during rituals in the past. In 2007 the group — formerly known as Michigamua — changed its name and began releasing its members' names in an effort to be more transparent, though its meetings and activities are still secretive.

Armstrong filed a personal protection order against Shirvell on Sept. 13, according to a representative at Washtenaw County Trial Court. The hearing will be held on Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Ann Arbor

As long as all parties appear, the judge will make a decision regarding the personal protection order on Monday, according to the representative.

Messages and e-mails to Armstrong seeking comment went unreturned last night. But at Tuesday night’s MSA meeting Armstrong said he “wouldn’t succumb to any unwarranted attacks.”

“I, along with the rest of this assembly, (was) elected to this body to represent the University,” he told the assembly on Tuesday. “And nothing said about us, or regarding our personal merits, will waive our commitment to serve the student body.”

On Sept. 14, the University's Department of Public Safety issued a trespass warning — banning Shirvell from University grounds — after receiving complaints of Shirvell stalking and harassing Armstrong outside his house in Ann Arbor, according to DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown.