Prosecutors have decided that Rockwall County commissioner who shortened an American flagpole by five feet will not face criminal charges.
In February, Commissioner Jerry Wimpee admitted to reducing the size of the flagpole flying the U.S. flag at the county courthouse's Veterans Memorial without approval.
Wimpee said he wanted the flagpole to match the ones flying the Texas and POW flags, saying he was 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 is an honor afforded to Texas because of its previous 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.
No special exception for the Texas flag is mentioned in the federal flag code or in the state's flag code. While many Texans believe such an exception is stated in a treaty that annexed the state, Texas was actually admitted to United States by a joint resolution of Congress, not by treaty.
No mention of the Texas flag is included in the joint resolution or in the 1845 Constitution of the State of Texas.
Local veterans called Wimpee's actions criminal.
"This memorial is a very special thing, and for someone who has never served to come in and denigrate the memorial in the way it was done, I think, is a horrible thing," Tom Galli said.
Tarrant County special prosecutor David Lobingier decided Wimpee would not face criminal charges. Instead, the commissioner has been ordered to pay $3,315 to restore the flagpole and donate $2,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.
"Based upon his relationship on being a commissioner, he thought he might have had the authority to do what he did -- which he did not -- but this was a good resolution," Lobingier said.
The case will be reopened if Wimpee breaks any laws in the next two years.
Wimpee apologized to citizens and veterans for his actions.
"I regret that my actions were offensive to some people," he said.
Veterans say they are happy the flagpole flying the Stars and Stripes will be restored.
"I've strapped on battle rattle and dodged bullets,"Galli said. "I did so for this flag. I did so for this memorial. I am offended, and I don't think any soldier wouldn't be offended."
The county is having a special meeting on Friday afternoon to formalize the process of restoring the flag to its original height.