Live Oak — An assistant state attorney for the Live Oak-based Third Judicial Circuit was fired Monday for speaking at Tea Party rallies and to other groups, according to Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney Skip Jarvis.
Jarvis said he revoked KrisAnne Hall's appointment as an assistant state attorney at 2:30 p.m. Monday. Hall, a Suwannee County resident, worked out of Hamilton County.
He said he felt bad for letting her go since she was "the only breadwinner in her household" but had "no other choice."
"She was speaking at some political events, some things were anti-state and anti-government," Jarvis said by phone Tuesday morning. "I emailed her and said look you can't do that as an assistant state attorney. Our client is the state of Florida."
Hall framed the question differently.
"I was told I could speak about the Constitution openly or keep my job," she said by phone Tuesday. "I chose the Constitution."
Hall filed a complaint Friday with the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, asking a judge to allow her to continue speaking at the events and to protect her from being fired. Jarvis said he received the complaint in the mail Monday but was never properly served.
Hall said in her complaint that she spoke at gatherings of several local groups, including the Suwannee Republican Executive Committee, area Tea Party meetings, a meeting of the 9/12 organization and radio programs. She also said that she "spoke at all of those engagements as a private citizen and not as an employee of the State Attorney's Office."
Hall told Jarvis in an April email that she felt her right to free speech was being threatened and wanted clarification.
"Are you telling me that I must surrender my First Amendment right to free speech, when it obviously does not hinder my work and or harm my employer in any way, I think the Supreme Court might find exception to that," she wrote.
Jarvis said he knew Hall was speaking at certain gatherings and "turned a blind eye to it" but when he received a complaint last month that Hall was speaking at gatherings that were "discussing a desire for less government and smaller budgets," he said he had to take action.
"All I have done is I have not banned her from speaking about whatever she wants to, but only to do so within the law," Jarvis said. "She used her position at my office to get to the pulpit."
Jarvis said it was "not a First Amendment issue. I am not violating her free speech, again she can say and do what she wants, but not while under my flag."
Hall said in the complaint she never claimed to be speaking on behalf of his office and said she used her "own resources and funds to prepare for and attend all of the subject speaking engagements."
Said Jarvis in response, "in these small towns everybody knows who my people are."
Hall said in an email that Jarvis was being "unfair" and "dogmatic" and asked him if she were allowed on "my free time to teach about the constitution just not to the people who are considered politically unacceptable ... I take my duty as a citizen very seriously and my obligation as a member of this Constitutional Republic very gravely. I fought for these rights in the military and as a sworn officer I am sworn to defend them."
Jarvis said Tuesday that Hall had a choice from the start: either to stop or have her appointment revoked.
"I asked her four different times to stop and think about what she's doing and she chose she would prefer to be a public speaker, so I revoked her appointment as assistant state attorney," he said. "She still has her license to practice, she has the same authority as she did before I hired her" in 2009.
"I was put into a position where I have had to choose and I chose what I feel was the right decision," Hall said.
Supporters rallied to Hall's defense. The Democrat received dozens of emails and calls from local folks angered by her firing.
"Her focus at the meetings is on the Constitution and educating people on the Constitution," said Live Oak businesswoman Jeanne d'Eauèdé, "and clearly that cannot be against the law. And if it is, we are in serious trouble."
In an email to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum made available to the Democrat, Suwannee resident Sherryl Huseonica called the events of Monday afternoon "an outrageous breach of conduct on the part of Skip Jarvis! Atty. KrisAnne Hall has been promoting understanding of the constitution, and since there is a hunger for more knowledge, she has been asked to speak at a number of forums...schools, local forums/events, small and large groups, and radio. Since she has been fired over this, because someone on the radical left is upset, then something is very wrong with our understanding of the constitution and the laws of this state!"
Hall said Tuesday she would be filing suit against Jarvis "as soon as possible."