Tammy Mutasa, Rockwall Reporter
The controversy over the American flag displayed at the Rockwall County Veterans Memorial at the county courthouse pits Texas law against federal law, and a county commissioner against men who fought to defend the flag.
Old Glory and the Lone Star Flag are at the center of a heated controversy after a Rockwall County Commissioner admitted to cutting 5 feet off the American flag's pole at the county's new Veterans Memorial.
During Tuesday morning's commissioner’s court meeting, County Commissioner Jerry Wimpee got a verbal slashing from veterans and residents who want the flagpole restored to its original height of 40 feet.
Wimpee said he lowered the pole to 35 feet to match the height of two adjacent flagpoles flying the Texas state flag and the POW flag.
He said he was just enforcing the Texas flag code, which allows for the U.S flag and Texas state flag to be flown at the same height [3100.055 (b) (1)].
While Texans commonly believe it to be an honor afforded to Texas because of its unique history as a republic, the U.S. Flag Code actually allows any state flag to fly at the same height as the national flag -- unless there are more than two flags, as is the case at the memorial in Rockwall.
In a group of more than two flags, the U.S. Flag Code dictates that the U.S. flag should be placed at the highest point in the center of the group [§175 (e)].
The U.S. Flag Code is federal law, but does not include penalties or punishments and is considered advisory.
Veterans and designers of the memorial say county commissioners -- Wimpee included -- approved such a design for the flagpoles there.
But the flag height isn't the issue for Commissioner Lorie Grinnan.
"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 District Attorney’s office and the sheriff have sent the issue to the Texas Rangers to investigate whether or not a crime has been committed.
NBC 5's Frank Heinz and Jane Geelan contributed to this report.