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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For the first time since his office became embroiled in scandal last year, Public Defender Matt Shirk addressed his employees directly about the rumors.

In an email obtained by First Coast News, and sent last month to all employees of the local public defender's office, Shirk dismissed allegations about him as distractions, and urged workers to focus on their jobs.

"For over a year now there have been all kids of rumors around our courthouse, from me being shot to resigning from office," Shirk wrote in an email to all staff, entitled simply, "Rumors."

"Rumors are by nature untrue, made up. Please pay no attention to the things you hear," he wrote. Shirk added, "If this kind of information were true, you would be hearing it from me directly."

Shirk is currently under investigation by Special Prosecutor Bill Cervone. That investigation was initiated by Gov. Rick Scott after newspaper reports of allegations ranging from the destruction of public records, to Shirk's close relationship with female subordinates and alleged drinking in the workplace. Shirk has acknowledged the drinking and called his text communications with female staffers, some of whom previously worked at the Whisky River nightclub, "inappropriate." Cervone's office told First Coast News last month that they were requesting an extension of the governor's August deadline to conclude the investigation, adding they were "nowhere near being done."

First Coast News asked for an interview or comment from Shirk about why he chose now to send the email, or whether any employees responded to his open invitation to come to him directly with questions about rumors. His spokesperson Matt Bisbee said Shirk was "going to decline that invitation, simply because [the email is] a couple weeks old and he just doesn't feel inclined to talk about that any further."

Related:

Investigation into Public Defender moving slowly

Public Defender defends his own conduct

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