Camping World CEO says limits on US flag size unconstitutional

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STATESVILLE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — Camping World’s CEO is arguing that the city ordinance banning a huge American flag from flying over his recreational vehicle store in Statesville is unconstitutional.

Attorneys for Marcus Lemonis said in a filing in Iredell County that the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions protect the right to fly an American flag of any size — in this case, the one at Gander RV in Statesville — provided it’s not a safety hazard.

The reality television star tweeted out copies of the filing Wednesday.

 

The U.S. and North Carolina constitutions and state law prohibit authorities “from placing arbitrary or unreasonable restrictions on city’s abilities to fly the flag,” the filing reads.

Lemonis is the chief executive officer of Camping World, which owns Gander, and star of CNBC’s reality television show “The Profit.” Lemois has made it clear he is not backing down on the issue. He declared last week that he would go to jail before he takes down the flag.

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Officials from Statesville sued the company in May over the massive 40 feet by 80 feet flag, which hangs on a 130-foot-high flagpole next to Interstate 77. City code limits flags to 25 feet by 40 feet.

Since October, the CEO has been fined $50 a day costing more than $11,000 so far.

Lemonis filed the response Tuesday even though Statesville’s mayor said last week that he had asked the city’s planning department to change the dimensions allowed for flags displayed in a highway business zone. The City Council would vote on the change in July and, if approved, Gander RV’s flag could keep flying.

“While we may have preferred that he come forward and make the request we’re entitled to do that, our staff does that on their own volition and often times the city council requests that,” Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh told FOX 46 in a previous interview. “We don’t have anything against him or his company, but we do not appreciate the way some of the comments that some of the folks that have contacted us have behaved and it’s very distasteful.”

But Lemonis said he wants no restrictions on the size of U.S. flags that aren’t a safety hazard. 

“Bottom line is the flag’s not coming down,” he told employees on May 30. “Give me a reason why this compromises the health, wellness or safety.” 

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As “The Profit” on TV, Lemonis invests in failing businesses and tries to turn them around. Regardless of the amount of his investment, he always tells the owners that he’s “100 percent in charge.”

The filing says the flag “represents the fundamental values — freedom, courage and equality before the law — that unite all Americans and transcend party politics. … In keeping with this tradition, The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that the act of flying the flag is a form a political expression protected by the First Amendment.”

“I really just comes down to, in my opinion, bureaucrats trying to control the size of something,” Lemonis said in a previous phone interview with FOX 46.

The filing also points to a North Carolina state law that says reasonable restrictions on the size of official governmental flags are allowed if necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare. Statesville’s restriction on flag size “serves no legitimate safety purpose,” the filing said.

A spokeswoman said the city had no response to the filing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Also on fox46charlotte.com: 

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