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New Details in Action News Investigation of Public Defender Matt Shirk

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Updated: 8/28/2013 11:12 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News has new details about a more than month-long investigation into the Public Defender's Office in Jacksonville.

Today, Public Defender Matt Shirk announced plans for a independent review of actions by his office since April.   Shirk also announced the same law firm that would review his office will also handle the office public record's requests.

Today, Governor Rick Scott's office also started a search to determine which State Attorney's Office would investigate Matt Shirk's office.

And, District 4 State Attorney Angela Corey recused her office from being involved in that investigation.  Corey cited the daily cases involving her office and the public defender's office.

All the while, Action News is still waiting for Matt Shirk to respond to our investigation.

We started asking questions back in July after concerned employees in the Public Defender's Office contacted Action News.

We made public records requests July 22 seeking out details of the resignation of lead investigator Alton Kelly.

At the time, we were told, there was no resignation letter.

It was not until the Florida Times-Union was tipped off about a voice mail that we learned the Public Defender's Office was not telling us the truth.

Ron Mallett, who is the chief of staff for Matt Shirk, left this message for Alton Kelly after our request:  "Hey buddy, it's Ron. We've had a public information request regarding your resignation from Action News. Would you mind if we actually typed up a resignation letter so we don't have to use the email, and make it, uh, more official? Anyway, if you want to give me a call back or shoot me a text and let me know what you think."

That voice mail references an email dated July 15, seven days before our initial request.

Since then, Action News has obtained building access card data on Matt Shirk.   The data reveals when Shirk used his card to access his office building, and secure areas in the building.

He swiped that card just 14 days out of 54 potential work days after June 12.

Sources tell Action News about a confrontation with female employees and Shirk's wife Michelle, on June 13.

Records obtained by Action News show Michelle Shirk used her access card on June 13.

She had that card, despite not being an employee at the Public Defender's Office, and as sources say, without going through the proper background check.

On August 14, records show employees at the Public Defender's Office deleted her access card information. 

There are also questions about Shirk's hiring of Ron Mallett.  Then his promoting Mallett to full-time chief of staff, earning $98,000 a year.

Mallett is the man who signed termination letters for three young women, two hired this summer from Whisky River.  The third woman was hired last year.

Action News contacted most of the 19 other public defender offices in the state.   Most do not have the additional position of chief of staff.  Most also have top employees with law degrees.  

We checked with the Florida Bar, and Mallett is not registered.

We did find he has another career.  Mallett is the vice president and CFO of Thigpen Heating and Air in Jacksonville.

When Action News stopped by the office this week, we were told Mallett is in that office every morning, before heading downtown to the Public Defender's Office.

When we asked Shirk's office for Mallett's job description with the Public Defender's Office, a spokesman told us he would have to look into it.

Action News has a public information request for that description and qualifications.

Action News is still waiting for Matt Shirk.
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