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article imageMich assistant AG fired for attacks on gay UM student president

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Nov 9, 2010 in Politics
Andrew Shirvell, an assistant Michigan attorney general, was fired November 8. Shirvell gained national attention after appearing on CNN talking about his campaign against the gay University of Michigan Student Assembly president.
Andrew Shirvell an assistant Michigan attorney general kept a blog about Chris Armstrong the Student Assembly president of the U of M who is openly gay. He had also picketed at Armstrong's home.
As reported on Digital Journal the blog was called CHRIS ARMSTRONG WATCH. The blog is now open to only invited readers after there were cries that Shirvell be fired.
A report on Digital Journal said that Shirvell had taken a leave of absence and would face a disciplinary hearing when he returned to work.
When Shirvell returned to work he attended a civil service discipline hearing. His lawyer, Philip Thomas, had documents stating that he felt showed what Shirvell did was protected by his constitutional right of free expression. All of Shirvell's comments were made on his own time and state computers were never used according to Thomas.
Attorney General Mike Cox then placed Shirvell on a paid leave and said the hearing would would continue on November 9.
Shirvell's lawyer Philip Thomas said the meeting was moved to November 8 with no explanation given. reports Thomas said, "I traveled two hours to find a room filled with the same administrators and human resources people, but their minds had been made up. I can only imagine the political machinations that happened between last week and now, but I feel my client has been wronged."
Thomas also said, "I feel terrible for Andrew. He has worked at that agency approximately four years. He has gotten excellent ratings and reviews each of his four years. His supervisors were aware of the blog as early as April or May, not that they condoned the content of it or that they condemned it. I just feel my client's constitutional First Amendment rights were in play here. Attorney General Mike Cox at first said the same thing and now, all of a sudden this happens."
According to Thomas, Shirvell is considering a civil service appeal of his termination or lawsuit for wrongful discharge.
Cox said he does not fire anyone who exercises their First Amendment rights. Cox said, "However, Mr. Shirvell repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior, and inappropriately used state resources, our investigation showed." reports Chris Armstrong's lawyer, Deborah L. Gordon said in a statement, "This clearly is the correct decision by the attorney general's office. The next step must be a complete retraction of all the malicious lies and fabrications by Mr. Shirvell, and a public apology to Mr. Armstrong, his family and others Mr. Shirvell has slandered." reports Sue Ellen Eisenberg, an employment and labor lawyer in Bloomfield Hills, said, "He made accusations....The point is they were not opinions; they were statements of fact that are misrepresentations of fact and maliciously uttered."
Complaints have been filed with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission by Armstrong and his lawyer Deborah Gordon. They have asked for Shirvell to be investigated and possibly disbarred.
Cox said in a statement issued by his office, "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."
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