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Posted on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 11:26 a.m.

State upholds firing of ex-assistant attorney general due to 'harassing' of gay U-M student

By Cindy Heflin

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Andrew Shirvell's lawyer.

A hearing officer with the Michigan Civil Service Commission has upheld the firing of former Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell as a result of his campaign against former University of Michigan student body President Chris Armstrong.

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Andrew Shirvell speaks against former University of Michigan student body President Chris Armstrong during a Michigan Student Assembly meeting.

In issuing the decision, hearing officer William Hutchens wrote that Shirvell was found to “have engaged in harassing conduct of the basest sort.”

Shirvell's lawyer, Philip J. Thomas, vowed to appeal and called the ruling "deeply flawed," saying that Shirvell was simply exercising his constitutional right to free speech outside of work.

Shirvell was fired in November 2010 for using state resources for his campaign against University of Michigan student body President Chris Armstrong and for lying to investigators during his disciplinary hearing, former Attorney General Mike Cox said at the time. Shirvell appealed the firing to the Civil Service Commission.

Armstrong was the first openly gay student body president at U-M and had been accused by Shirvell of pushing a “radical homosexual agenda.”

Shirvell kept a blog accusing Armstrong of pushing a "radical homosexual agenda" and appeared at several Michigan Student Assembly meetings to protest Armstrong, holding signs — including ones with a rainbow with a swatiska drawn over it. At one point, Shirvell was banned by university officials from stepping foot on campus. The order was later modified.

The 16-page decision discussed Shirvell’s attacks on Armstrong through his blog and television interviews, including with Anderson Cooper and television station WXYZ. “The fact that the grievant made a media spectacle of himself and the department for which he worked without regard for the interests of his employer constitutes conduct unbecoming a state employee,” Hutchens wrote.

Thomas, in a written statement, said Shirvell will appeal to the Michigan Civil service Commissions employment Relations Board. If Shirvell exhausts all his administrative appeals, he could file a wrongful termination suit, Thomas wrote.

In a phone interview, Thomas noted that Hutchens called Shirvell a "conscientious, prompt and detail-oriented" employee and he said that Shirvell had agreed to abide by his immediate supervisor's request that he not appear on Anderson Cooper's show. It was only when then-Attorney General Mike Cox said forbidding him to participate would violate Shirvell's right to free speech that he decided to proceed with the appearance, Thomas said.

Download the decision.



Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

Looking forward to the last episode of Pee Wee's playhouse


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 12:04 p.m.

What is even sadder than Shirvell's deplorable behavior is the climate that we live in where someone thinks that he/she can get away with such reprehensible behavior. That Shirvell could convince himself that what he was doing was acceptable and just, and the way in which he went about it speaks volumes about our society and our ability to live together and respect people who are different -- whether the difference is considered the norm or not becomes irrelevant. It is the difference that counts and therefore one must erradicate its possibility to exist. And this guy rose up to become an asst attorney general sworn to uphold the law -- have we not learned anything from our history of bigotry. racism and classism?

Basic Bob

Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

The vast majority of people found his behavior and speech to be morally unacceptable, but possibly constitutional. In the end, he got away with nothing.


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 12:47 a.m.

Regardless of his personal agenda, he used work resources to conduct his "campaign" and then lied about it. Case closed. It seemed to me he should have been fired when he was banned from campus. Anyone who can't exercise self-control and good judgment sufficient to avoid getting banned from the campus of a major state university has no place on a public payroll.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.

Shirvell's alarming ignorance of how the First Amendment really works merely confirms that he wasn't fit for to be an Assistant Attorney General in the first place. If he hadn't been fired for his inexcusable actions, he probably would have been eventually for his incompetence.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.

It was like he had a death wish, trying to lose his job. He needs a whole heaping bunch of self control.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

I always felt of the civil, criminal and administrative investigations and proceedings the strongest legal case against Shirvell was the Civil Service Commission discharge proceedings. Much of his alleged conduct in the other cases was protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, but using government facilities for personal activities and making public statements against the policy of the Department of Attorney General were things that one cannot do as a public official, as Shirvell was, without serious consequences. The Attorney Grievance Commission investigation, County Prosecutor stalking investigation as well as the federal suit against Shirvell by Armstrong were all mere sideshows that were going nowhere. This was the case Shirvell would lose and his firing will be upheld. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said a man has a right to say what he wants but he does not have the right to be a policeman. Ditto for Andrew Leo Shirvell.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

correct me...but have you not flip- flopped radically on your 'take" on this issue over the time it's been 'news', having repeatedly ( as you do) placed the most absurdistly permissive interpretations of the 1st amendment above all else ( quite contra justice holmes , who you cite favorably here, and who well knew the difference between responsible free speech and reckless and incendiary speech )??


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

Can we now stop covering this story and let Mr. Shirvell disappear into oblivion?


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 4:11 a.m.

Yes, like a sore thumb.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 10:55 p.m.

This guys gonna continue to stand out where ever he is.

Top Cat

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

I'm not sure why it took a 16 page decision to say the State was correct in firing Mr. Shirvell. I guess his grandmother never talked to him about the virtues of minding your own business.

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Imagine, a Republican making a "media spectacle of himself". I'm very happy that Mr Shirvell finally got the justice he so richly deserved.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

What Shirvell said was just words. What Armstrong and UM did was abuse the power of the state and the campus police, which has a lot more consequences for everyone in the UM community. Shirvell put forth an anti-gay message but look at the history of one of the current candidates for the Board of Regents, Dan Horning. He waged a campaign against a gay english professor while he was Regent. Doesn't that have a lot more impact than a blog? It was the UM lawyers who argued in court, in the Peter Hammer case, that even if UM had a policy against discrimination against gays, that it gave this law professor no right to sue in court when UM violated that policy. The Shirvell case is a distraction from those at the UM who have a real anti-gay agenda and the power to do something with that agenda.


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 4:10 a.m.

There was more than a blog involved here. And besides, while yes there are other problem employees at U of M, that in no way should inform the discussion surrounding Shirvell. The fact of the matter is he threatened, stalked, and defamed a student. Worse he lied about it. These are all legitimate reasons to fire him.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

Keep grindin' that axe.


Wed, Mar 28, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

@Ypsi- I am not saying he doesn't have an anti-gay agenda but rather that he has no power to affect anyone beyond just words. If you want to know who can really hurt you, you have to look at who has real power and the UM has real power over people's lives.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

I have trouble believing that you dont find this a "real anti-gay agenda". If this guy was not mounting a real anti-gay campaign I don't know what one would be.

Bertha Venation

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

Good! I'm GLAD!