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Public Defender Matt Shirk answers some questions from Action News

Matt Shirk
Matt Shirk
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Updated: 10/04/2013 5:39 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Action News investigation into Public Defender Matt Shirk's office started back in July. We tracked Shirk down Friday and for the first time he answered some of our questions.

"Should you resign?" asked Action News reporter Bryan Baker.

"I'm not going to talk about that," answered Shirk.

Shirk briefly spoke to Action News moments before addressing a group downtown about the responsibilities of his office.

"When's the last time you read the Constitution or Bill of Rights?" asked Shirk, holding up a piece of paper listing them. "Most people haven't in a long time, probably since school. So take that and review it, this is the foundation of what we do in our office: (the) Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments give us what we need to do our job."

"You held up the Bill of Rights. Obviously, the First Amendment is pretty important, too: freedom of the press. So we are obviously just appreciative of you letting us ask you this: Can you comment on the investigation into your office?" asked Baker.

"No, sir," returned Shirk.

We were asked to hold our questions for a second time, until after the meeting.

"Do you think you're in a position to do your job well, though?" asked Baker.

"We're doing the job just as well today as we were two months ago, before you guys started reporting," Shirk adds.

Those reports included weeks of investigations and public records requests.

"We've provided you with over 9,000 pages of public records and all our questions should be answered in those 9,000-plus pages," Shirk told Action News. "And any other questions you have I'll answer, it will just be at a different time."

Records of emails, text messages and phone calls show possible misconduct within the Public Defender's Office, including the questionable hiring of two women from the Whisky River Bar and Restaurant and a confrontation between Shirk's wife and a third female employee. Within two weeks all three were fired.

There are also allegations of drinking in his office and text messages of a questionable nature between Shirk and those women. But Shirk said the state investigation into him hasn't distracted his office.

"In our office, we've been working just as diligently as we ever have," he said. "Cases are getting tried. I'm getting the work done that I was put there to do. This distraction is really not a distraction to what we are doing in the office is really all I can tell you."

Action News asked Shirk 26 questions Friday. He answered eight of them but none addressed our investigation or his job status. He ignored six questions and 12 times he refused to comment.

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