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Source: The Brunswick News
Date: February 5, 2008
Byline: Emily Stranger

Businesses ticketed over flag ordinance

Gary Hudgins never thought his love of the American flag would land him in Glynn County Magistrate Court.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Hudgins, owner of the Carl Gregory car dealership at 5400 Altama Ave., Glynn County, has decorated every car at his dealership with an American flag.

Not anymore. On Friday, a Glynn County code enforcement officer told Hudgins the flags were in violation of a county sign ordinance adopted this past November and handed him a citation.

Two weeks before, Hudgins was sent a letter from Glynn County Code Enforcement informing him of the new ordinance, which prohibits the display of banners, flags and portable signs.

Gary Hudgins puts an American flag on a car at the Carl Gregory dealership. A county ordinance prohibits the flags from being flown and Hudgins is upset. (Michael Hall/The Brunswick News)

"But the American flag? I would never believe in my wildest dreams that the American flag would be included in (that ordinance)," Hudgins said Monday.

He said he understands the intent of the ordinance. In fact, he even agrees with it.

"I know they want to clean up Glynn County, but the county needs to be directing their attention to the signs on telephone poles and all those signs around town advertising for dating services," Hudgins said. "The American flag should be excluded from the ordinance."

Carl Gregory wasn't the only dealership in the county cited as being in violation of the ordinance Friday.

Donald Smith, general manager of Golden Isles Nissan, 531 Walker Road, Glynn County, was also cited by a code enforcement officer.

Smith has displayed American flags on light poles for the past year in support of American troops overseas.

"It's insulting, really. It really insults our patriotism here," he said Monday. "How is it possible that it's become illegal to fly American flags in Glynn County? It's amazing to me."

Both dealership officials are scheduled to go before a magistrate March 5.

Hudgins said he has hired a lawyer and doesn't intend to pay a fine.

"I'm not going to pay nothing, and they can put me in jail if they want to," he said. "There are Americans dying everywhere and every day all over the world fighting for what the flag stands for. It's really disgusting to me that this happened and I'm highly upset about it."

Smith said he hasn't hired a lawyer, but he has hired a contractor to take the flags down from the 18-foot poles in the dealership's parking lot.

"I can't get them down from there myself or with anybody else's help," he said.

Mickey Melton, manager of the Glynn County Code Enforcement unit and author of the original letter that was sent regarding the new sign ordinance, did not return telephone calls to his office Monday.

County Commissioner Jerome Clark was surprised Monday when he heard the dealerships were forced to take down their flags.

"In my personal opinion, I think that's going too far," Clark said. "I don't think anywhere we display the American flag is inappropriate. That's an issue (the commission) is definitely going to have to look at."

County Commissioner Cap Fendig begs to differ. He said the way in which the American flags were being displayed was disrespectful.

"If you ask some of our veterans what they think about the flag, you would find that they don't agree with the way the flags were being displayed," he said. "They don't like seeing it used for advertising purposes."

Candice Temple, spokesperson for the county, said the ordinance was not written to target American flags.

"The ordinance says 'flags,' and legally we can't discriminate," she said Monday. "If those gentleman had questions or concerns, they should have contacted Community Development within the two-week period when they were asked to come into compliance to make sure they were not given a citation."

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