Employee asked to shower with Shirk, lawsuit claims

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A former employee of Public Defender Matt Shirk's office has filed a federal law suit against Shirk for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, having a hostile work environment and libel.

Tiffany Ice, who was an administrative assistant for the public defender's office, claims she was fired because she was a woman after being sexually harassed by Shirk. The suit, which was filed last week, contains many of the same details first published in the Times-Union in 2013.

"During business hours defendant Matt Shirk sent plaintiff a text message asking her to take a shower with him in his private office shower," the suit states.

Ice's attorney, Bill Sheppard, said the suit "speaks for itself" and declined to comment further.

The suit also claims that Shirk later sent Ice an electronic greeting card with a picture of a man and a woman and a caption reading: "I think if we had sex there would be very minimal awkwardness afterwards."

Shirk couldn't be reached for immediate comment.

Damon Kitchen, an attorney for Shirk, said the following:

"Mr. Shirk has been notified of the lawsuit that Ms. Ice has filed against him. While he vigorously denies Ms. Ice's claims of discrimination and wrong doing, he strongly believes in our country's legal system and institutions and has faith that they will fully vindicate him.

In the meantime he will be devoting his time and attention to discharging his duties as public defender for the Fourth Judicial Circuit and ensuring that high quality legal representation is provided to people who could not otherwise afford defense counsel."

In 2013 Shirk admitted to the Times-Union that he sent inappropriate text messages to some of his female employees, but he denied ever sending a text message asking Ice to join him in the shower.

The former chief of staff for the public defender's office, Ron Mallett, is also named in the law suit. Mallett resigned after a series of stories by the Times-Union, including an article reporting that he gave the order to an office employee to delete information related to an building access badge for Shirk's wife.


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