Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox on Monday fired Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell for conduct unbecoming a state employee and misuse of state resources after Shirvell created a sustained smear campaign harassing the first openly gay student assembly president of the University of Michigan.
Shirvell, a former University of Michigan student himself, is found to have engaged in an alarming physical and online campaign designed to have Armstrong resign his post.
As well as shadowing Armstrong’s movements, including standing outside Armstrong’s residence in the early hours of the morning, Shirvell created a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch in which he made a number of demonstrably false claims about Armstrong, his family and friends. On the blog Shirvell labeled Armstrong an elitist liar, a racist and an anti-Christian menace determined to push a homosexual agenda. He also accused Armstrong of holding on-campus gay orgies and engaging in underage drinking.
Above you can see Shirvell left, and an image Shirvell doctored of Chris Armstrong on the right. The latter appeared on the Chris Armstrong Watch blog. The blog has since been removed from public access. Shirvell originally started the blog under the moniker of “Concerned Michigan Alumnus” before being exposed.
AG Mike Cox has come under increasing pressure to fire Shirvell, but because Shirvell was a state employee, he enjoyed a job security that limited the ways in which he could be removed from his position.
Cox had previously said that, while he disagreed with Shirvell’s bullying tactics, what Shirvell did in his off-time fell under the purview of his First Amendment rights— even though concerns were raised that Shirvell had clearly overstepped those bounds. As such, since the news story broke, Shirvell has been on paid administrative leave while an investigation by Cox’s office was underway.
On Monday, Mike Cox’s staff released notice that Shirvell had been fired after the investigation determined that he had in fact used state resources and time to wage his anti-gay campaign against Armstrong and that he had committed acts of bullying clearly not protected under freedom of speech. The investigation also found that, when quizzed over his conduct, Shirvell had lied to investigators.
Below is a statement by Mike Cox which gives more details into the extent of Shirvell’s actions.
STATEMENT FROM ATTORNEY GENERAL MIKE COX:
Today, Andrew Shirvell was fired for conduct unbecoming a state employee, especially that of an Assistant Attorney General.
To be clear, I refuse to fire anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, regardless of how popular or unpopular their positions might be.
However, Mr. Shirvell repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior, and inappropriately used state resources, our investigation showed.
For example, Mr. Shirvell:
* Showed up at the home of a private citizen three separate times, including once at 1:30 A.M. That incident is especially telling because it clearly was about harassing Mr. Armstrong, not engaging in free speech.
* Further engaged in behavior that, while not perhaps sufficient to charge criminal stalking, was harassing, uninvited and showed a pattern that was in the everyday sense, stalking.
* Harassing Armstrong’s friends as they were socializing in Ann Arbor;
* Numerous calls to Speaker Pelosi’s office, Armstrong’s employer, in an attempt to slander Armstrong – and ultimately attempting to cause Pelosi to fire Armstrong;
* Attempting to “out” Armstrong’s friends as homosexual – several of whom were not gay.
Additionally, Shirvell engaged in his campaign on company time. Shirvell called Pelosi’s office while at work, during working hours. And, Shirvell would, at times, post attacks on Armstrong on the Internet while at work.
Finally, Shirvell lied to investigating assistant attorneys general on several occasions during his disciplinary hearing.
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. Ultimately, Mr. Shirvell’s conduct has brought his termination from state service.
This may not be the end in this case however: Armstrong has filed a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission. Should Armstrong’s complaint be validated by the commission, it is possible that Shirvell could be disbarred.
Shirvell’s attorney believes Shirvell has been bullied by the liberal media. Armstrong’s attorney has gone on record, calling Shirvell a “loose cannon.”
“This smells political to me,” Thomas told the newspaper. “There’s been a tremendous piling-on against Andrew. The liberal media started this tempest in a teapot.”
Gordon responded by telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night that she felt it was “pathetic and lame for (Shirvell) to be whining about being bullied.”
Gordon [Armstrong's attorney] said that she and her client aren’t done going after Shirvell. That includes trying to have him disbarred as a licensed attorney in Michigan. She said investigators’ finding that Shirvell lied to the attorney general’s office is central to their case.
“This man is a loose cannon with a law license,” said Gordon.
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