Commissioner says he was trying to honor state code
BY JAMES BRGHT
An investigation has been launched by the Texas Rangers over the removal of five feet of the United States flagpole at the new courthouse.
The action lowered the national flag to be even with the state flag and a POW/MIA flag.
The issue is whether the action is an act of criminal mischief which is damage to property without the effective consent of a majority of the commissioners court.
Precinct One County Commissioner Jerry Wimpee admitted in a statement he released to the Herald-Banner that he had a contractor lower the flag pole to comply with Texas code 3100.055.
“A mistake was made concerning the Courthouse Flag Display wherein one of the flagpoles was taller than the others,” Wimpee said. “It is not unusual that mistakes are made on large and complex construction projects like the new courthouse. This mistake kept the Courthouse Flag Display from conforming to the Texas Code. The mistake was corrected on Jan. 28, 2012 when a flagpole contractor trimmed the top of the taller pole, bringing the Courthouse Flag Display into compliance with the Texas Code. The repair cost $760.”
Chair of the Veterans Memorial and Executive in the American Legion Lee Gilbert said the flag is supposed to abide by Chapter One of Title Four of the United States code, which would have the nation’s flag higher than the other two and placed in the center of the arrangement.
“We used the U.S. code, which states ‘if multiple flags are flying, the nations should be in the center and tallest,’” he said.
Some controversy surrounds this code though, since the law is written with the intent to regulate civilian use.
Gilbert admitted that Texas flag code does states when the state flag is placed with the nation’s flag both should be equal size and height, but the code does not address the issue of having more than two flags.
“If there is a conflict between the two codes, the nation’s code prevails,” he said.
Wimpee said he is not the first elected official in Rockwall to utilize the Texas code.
“Many different officials have applied this flag code for generations throughout our community,” he said. “They include all the various school board members, mayors, city councils and county officials. Look around you; the evidence of their actions can be witnessed at our public schools, each city hall, the historic courthouse, the county jail, and the county library.”
Gilbert has been involved with the construction of the Veterans Memorial since its inception. He said he first made a presentation about creating a veterans memorial in the county in 2004.
“Representing the American Legion and veterans I wanted the commissioners to agree to give us a plot of land for the memorial,” he said. “They said once the bond election was done they would be interested, but I would have to raise the money.”
From that point Gilbert began his work on the memorial and in 2010 architect Dan Fletcher was secured for the design.
“A design jury that worked with Dan made a presentation to all five members of the court,” he said. “They approved the design 5-0, which included the flag size.
Somehow Wimpee recently got a bee in his bonnet that the Texas flag should be the same size as the nations.”
Wimpee, who has held his position for 20 years, said the decision was not made with any sort of malice and that he was simply trying to honor the Texas code.
Gilbert said despite Wimpee being on the design committee for the new courthouse he never said a word about his problems with the flags.
Gilbert said there are two issues at hand, the first being proper etiquette of honoring the American flag and the other being the investigation of criminal activity in regards to Wimpee’s actions.
“We have 200 veterans that are very upset and our goal will be to return the flag arrangement to how it was,” he said.
In the Feb. 14 commissioner court meeting Wimpee did put an item in payable claims for the county to pay for the alteration of the flagpole. County Judge Jerry Hogan struck the item from the agenda with the support of District Attorney Kenda Culpepper because of the pending investigation.
It is an election year for the precinct one commissioner seat, but Wimpee announced in December he would not seek reelection.
Original Article At Rockwall Herald Banner