Florida city suspends inspector over flag flap
Shop employees say inspector insulted veteran
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville has suspended the code inspector who issued a warning citation to a business that had flags from every branch of the U.S. military on its roof, along with her supervisor, who was present at the time, WJXT-TV reports.
Melinda Power came under fire after she cited Jaguar Power Sports for its rooftop display, which also includes two United States flags and a Jacksonville Jaguars flag. She was attacked on social media across the country not only for the warning, but for what employees of the business said about her interaction with a customer, who was also a veteran.
Mayor Lenny Curry issued this statement Tuesday morning:
Employees of the City of Jacksonville are the servants of taxpayers who have a duty to enforce our laws and regulations. I expect every one of them to do that job in a manner that is respectful and reflects the privilege we all have to serve this great city. What I saw reported is 100 percent inconsistent with how I expect every city employee to interact with our citizens.
I have ordered a review of the actions of the employee and pending the completion of that review, the employee and her supervisor have been placed on leave. Today I will ask every manager of city departments to review our procedures with each city employee. Once a review of the actions in this matter is complete, appropriate corrective action will be enforced for any wrongdoing.
As the son and grandson of military veterans, and the mayor of a city with a proud history of commitment to our nation’s defense, I will not tolerate disparagement or disrespect of the men and women who serve or served. On behalf of the City of Jacksonville I apologize to veterans and service members who are rightly troubled by the events that have been reported.
While current ordinance does not address residents or businesses displaying military flags, I will not allow any citation of those who demonstrate their support for the Armed Forces. My team is working with the city’s Office of General Counsel to bring clarity to the relevant city laws.”
Late Monday, Power apologized on social media for the controversy that was sparked when she issued the warning citations -- which she said was a code violation. Power later removed the Facebook post, but screenshots of it continue to be circulated on social media.
Employees at the business said a customer overheard Power issuing the warning, which told the business to correct the violation or risk "prosecution for the offense."
The customer, a military veteran, got upset, and a confrontation between the two was captured on surveillance video.
Employees said Power insulted the customer after he told her he almost lost his life serving in the military.
"She gets in his face this close and says, 'You did nothing for this country,'" store employee Katie Klasse said.
In her Facebook post, Power described the incident differently, saying she thought the customer had asked, "Do you know what I did?" And that she responded, "Nothing."
She said after that, tempers flared, and she admitted: "I should never have been unprofessional and disrespectful period. Sincerely apologize."
Power also said in the post that her father, husband and son-in-law have all served in the military and that she has "the utmost respect for the military."
The customer who got into the confrontation with Power told WJXT-TV he is happy that the mayor responded. He said he would like Power to apologize to the veteran community, not necessarily to him. He added that he "doesn't want anyone to lose their job."
A manager of Jaguar Power Sports told WJXT-TV on Tuesday she also doesn't want to see Power fired.
"How they're going to deal with their employee is going to be on them," Marcy Moyer said. "I know that our customer base would love to see me say, 'Fire her,' but I hate to see anybody lose their job. That was not the purpose of this. It was to bring awareness and hope that someone would not treat someone else that way."
People answering the phones Tuesday morning at City Hall were inundated with callers on the flag citation. Of 50 calls taken in the first hour of business, most wanted the employee fired.
When news of the confrontation and the warning citation reached his office Monday night, Curry said that he has directed city staff to treat military flags the same as the U.S. flag when on display.
1. I Have directed city staff that military flags should be treated same as US flag. Let them fly. I Have reached out to the business owner & will review employee procedures. COJ employees r expected to be respectful of our customers - you, the people of Jacksonville.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) April 16, 2018
Curry's chief of staff indicated that the city will be investigating the incident and is reviewing the current city ordinances on flags "to ensure accurate information was shared."
Because it was a warning, the business was able to rip up the warning and keep its flags flying.
Vic Micolucci, Francine Frazier at WJXT