Believing that Armstrong was pursuing a "radical homosexual agenda," Shirvell stalked the student at his residence and at the University of Michigan. State officials conducted an investigation and concluded that Shirvell's conduct made him unfit for his position. According to a report of the investigation, Shirvell engaged in several inappropriate actions, including, that he:
Showed up at Armstrong's home three separate times, including once at 1:30 a.m. . .Employees and Free Speech
"Engaged in behavior that, while not perhaps sufficient to charge criminal stalking, was harassing, uninvited and showed a pattern that was in the everyday sense, stalking."
Harassed Armstrong's friends as they were socializing in Ann Arbor.
Called Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, Armstrong's employer, in an attempt to "slander Armstrong and ultimately attempting to cause Pelosi to fire Armstrong.
Attempted to "out" Armstrong's friends as homosexual — several of whom aren't gay (boldface added).
Mike Cox, the Michigan attorney general, carefully distinguished Shirvell's conduct from activities protected by the First Amendment. As a public employee, Shirvell's speech is entitled to constitutional protection. Cox, however, rightfully concluded that Shirvell's conduct went far beyond protected activities for public employees. Furthermore, Shirvell apparently lied to investigators -- which clearly does not implicate a constitutional right.
Recently, Dissenting Justice has commented on several clashes between speech and workplace decorum. I believe that many recent discharges or suspensions of individuals -- such as Shirley Sherrod, Keith Olbermann, and Juan Williams -- reflect a desire to avoid controversy by any means necessary. I do not agree with this kneejerk desire to sanitize speech.
The Shirvell case, however, differs from the others in many important respects. Shirvell, as a state attorney, was responsible for enforcing state antidiscrimination law and for executing his duties without prejudice. Also, as the report concludes, Shirvell engaged in harassing and potentially slanderous conduct. Furthermore, Shirvell lied to state officials who investigated his conduct. Finally, Shirvell used state time and resources to stalk and harass college students. His pattern of behavior raises serious questions about his professional and mental competence. Accordingly, this is one case in which a discharge was absolutely warranted.