Attorney General Mike Cox changed his stance Thursday, suspending Andrew Shirvell after the assistant attorney general attracted national attention for a controversial blog that ridicules and denounces a University of Michigan student leader for his gay advocacy, religious beliefs and character.
The suspension came a day after Cox told CNN he didn't intend to fire Shirvell, citing civil service rules that protect government employees from being "fired willy-nilly" for exercising their rights of free speech.
Cox said he hadn't earlier read all of Shirvell's blog, "Chris Armstrong Watch," that dogs Armstrong, the 21-year-old, openly gay president of U-M's student government and accuses him of "anti-Christian behavior," "mocking God," promoting homosexuality and trying "to recruit your sons and daughters" into the gay lifestyle.
"I'm at fault here," Cox said. "I've been saying for weeks that (Shirvell's) been acting like a bully, that his behavior is immature, but it's after-hours and protected by the First Amendment."
Since when is stalking protected by the 1st? This has gone far beyond speech on a blog. Armstrong has filed for a PPO, and the U of M has banned Shrivell from campus, citing "harassing or stalking behavior" - and if the following doesn't fit the description of stalking under state law, I'm not sure what would.
Armstrong fired back in the personal protection order filed two weeks ago. The order, posted on www.annarbor.com today, says since being elected to the student leadership post in the spring, Shirvell has attacked him verbally at campus events, called the office where Armstrong was doing a summer internship in D.C. and complained about him, followed Armstrong’s friends to events hoping to find Armstrong, and protested and took pictures outside Armstrong’s home. One of his friends felt threatened by a conversation with Shirvell after.
On more than one occasion, police were called when Shirvell protested at Armstrong’s home.
Here is the language of the Michigan Penal Code:
"A ‘willful course of conduct’ involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested."
Maybe Cox got a clue. Or decided to do his job.
Cox declined to explain why he suspended Shirvell beyond saying he may have overlooked some activity described on the blog.
Yeah, like stalking. And it seems Cox would be well within his right to start the dismissal process on Shrivell if he wanted to. Governor Granholm stated yesterday that she would have fired Shirvell is she were still AG, which of course drew a childish and defensive retort from Cox - perhaps because he was starting to realize he was running out of room to defend this guy.
As governor, Granholm enacted policies applying to state workers that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation -- but those rules apply to the workplace, not to what employees say or blog after-hours. The rules allow political appointees like Cox to fire employees for "just cause," including "conduct unbecoming a state employee," said Matt Fedorchuk, a spokesman for the state department of civil service.
What determines that conduct isn't explicitly described.
Targeting a specific individual for hate speech and physically stalking that person to the point of what appears to be criminal behavior should qualify as "conduct unbecoming", don't you think? Does that really need to be "explicitly described?" The lawyers will chew that over, but the fact that Cox first overlooked the behavior, and then went out of his way to defend it, says more about Mike Cox than anything else.
Be very, very grateful that Cox wasn't the Republican nominee for governor.
UPDATE: According to a report at WWJ, Cox was "troubled that the 30-year-old lawyer videotaped police breaking up a party at Armstrong’s off-campus home in Ann Arbor over Labor Day weekend." Ah, taping and broadcasting the cops was the problem here - not all that harassment stuff.