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