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Rockwall citizens fill courthouse to protest Wimpee cutting down flag pole

flagpoles - after

flagpoles - before

ROCKWALL – Over 100 area residents filled the historic old Rockwall County Courthouse yesterday to protest the actions of 20-year County Commissioner Jerry Wimpee, who hired a company Jan. 28 to cut five feet off the U.S. flagpole to lower it to the same height as the Texas and Veterans flags, which fly outside the new Rockwall County Courthouse.

As the above photos show, he also moved the Texas flag to the middle and the U.S. flag to the left, flying at the same height.

Since no one apparently knew who modified the poles initially, vandalism was reported to the Rockwall County Sheriff’s Office, which notified Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney Kenda Culpepper. She then asked the Texas Rangers to investigate to see if a crime has been committed, which they are currently doing.

At the Commissioners meeting yesterday, Wimpee was lambasted by local veterans and citizens for taking it upon himself to lower the pole and change the alignment of the flags – in effect vandalizing county property.

“You can bet if Joe Citizen had done something like this and then confessed to it, he would be behind bars, not holding court,” said Connie Christensen, who served on the memorial planning committee. “Who, Mr. Wimpee, do you think you are?”

They said Wimpee voted for the design of the memorial during the construction process that called for a US flag above the others, which is acceptable under federal law.

According to Wimpee, he made the change to correct a “mistake” made during construction of the Courthouse, which was just dedicated last Nov. on Veteran’s Day. He said he was just enforcing Texas law, and wants the county to reimburse him for $760.

“Well, I’ve always tried to what’s right and not what’s popular necessarily,” Wimpee said at Tuesday’s commission meeting. “That’s what it came down to for me.”

“In my statement, I say a mistake was made,” Wimpee said. “I didn’t say who made one. Because whoever made the mistake, me or someone else, that didn’t trump the state flag code. So, it needs to be corrected.”

Wimpee said, what’s right is enforcing Texas law, which says the Texas flag should fly at the same height as the US flag.

Unfortunately, state and federal law somewhat conflict. The state flag code says the Texas flag and the American flag “should be flown at the same height:”

Texas flag code:

Sec. 3100.055. (b) If the state flag and the flag of the United States are displayed on flagpoles or flagstaffs at the same location:

(1) the flags should be displayed on flagpoles or flagstaffs of the same height;

(2) the flags should be of approximately equal size;

(3) the flag of the United States should be, from the perspective of an observer, to the left of the state flag.

Added by Acts 2001, 77th Texas Leg., ch. 1420, Sec. 7.001, eff. Sept. 1, 2001

U.S. flag code:

(e) The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs. (US Flag Code, 4 US, Section 7(e), Position and Manner of Display)

Commissioner Lorie Grinnan said the flag height isn’t the issue.

“Please be aware that the issue facing the county is not about flag codes,” Grinnan said. “The issue is about an elected official taking action on a public building without the approval from the elected body of which he is a member. This is a criminal property damage issue. Even greater, it tests whether or not our local government system requires our elected officials to govern as a body and not take individual, unauthorized action.”

The Rockwall County Courthouse has been a source of controversy for several years, since County voters twice voted down the building of the facility at its current location. But Wimpee, former County Judge Chris Florance and former Commissioner Bruce Beaty voted to build it there anyway, using a “loophole” in the law to do so, against the votes of Commissioners Grinnan and David Magness.

At the time, Florance told TheRockwallNews.com that by doing so the Commissioners did County residents a huge favor, by saving taxpayers millions of dollars, because if they had not started construction when they did construction costs would have been far greater. He added they couldn’t find any other locations suitable for a County Courthouse to last for decades into the future so they selected the current location despite the actions of local voters.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

 

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2 Responses for “Rockwall citizens fill courthouse to protest Wimpee cutting down flag pole”

  1. Joel says:

    It is a sad day in which we attack an elected official for enforcing state law. The idea that we need to convene the board of commissioners to do the law rather then set the laws is a misuse of the promise of representative government. While the issue has important symbolic meaning the logistical issue presented by fixing a flagpole clearly should not require the bureaucracy being demanded. It is a concerning sign about what the other commissioner’s are willing to do for this community if they are offended by even this minor example of personal initiative taken by a man elected to lead.

  2. Ray Spray says:

    It was wrong of Wimpee to take it upon him self to change a government building.
    The simple solution would be to move the US FLAG to the left flag pole as display is viewed. This will satisfy both Texas and US Flag display rules. Put the Texas flag in the middle.

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