Today in bureaucratic overreach...
There has been an ongoing controversy in Statesville, North Carolina regarding the size of an American flag flying over Gander RV, a business owned by Camping World. The CEO of Camping World is Marcus Lemonis, made famous by his TV show The Profit, and Lemonis recently traveled to Statesville in order to address the ongoing controversy.
The company has a 40‘ x 80‘ flag flying over its facilities on Interstate 77, which violates the city's ordinance that limits flags to 25‘ x 40‘. But CEO Lemonis has made it clear that he is not backing down on the issue and is hell-bent on keeping the flag up regardless of the city's request that he take it down. In exchange, Statesville has filed a lawsuit to have it removed.
Lemonis told Fox 46 news: "Bottom line is the flag’s not coming down. Give me a reason why this compromises the health, wellness or safety."
The city says they’ve tried to contact Lemonis to work towards a solution but they’ve never heard back. The city's mayor, Costi Kutteh, said: “He put a lot of pressure on us but our uniform development ordinance allows for text amendments at any time.”
Since October, the company has been fined $50 a day for flying the flag, costing an aggregate of more than $11,000 so far. But that hasn’t phased Lemonis. “It really just comes down to, in my opinion, bureaucrats trying to control the size of something,” Lemonis said.
Despite filing the lawsuit, the city now appears to be backing off. The mayor has asked the city planning board to draft a text amendment to the ordinance calling it a good compromise.
"I'M WILLING TO GO TO JAIL OVER IT": Camping World CEO paid a visit to Statesville today, addressing the growing controversy over the massive American flag flying over Gander RV. He said bottom line, it's not coming down.— FOX 46 Charlotte (@FOX46News) May 31, 2019
READ MORE: https://t.co/vAbahhVTlr pic.twitter.com/3Vy8NJehH4
Kutteh also says that the fight against the RV company is starting to affect local businesses. The city's employees have been overrun with calls and emails about the flag and some have even been threatened. The mayor says it’s time to put a stop to it.
Kutteh said: “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.”
Meanwhile, Lemonis' attorneys say that non-compliance with the lawsuit could result in him being held in contempt of court, but he says he’s willing to risk going to jail over the issue.
“I’m willing to go to the end on this issue. I’m willing to go to jail over it," he said.
He’s also seeking clarity on what the city's amendment means: “Is the city withdrawing the lawsuit? Are they filing the amendment or leaving the lawsuit? We're a little unclear,” Lemonis said. Kutteh said the flag would be allowed to fly, but didn't comment on the $11,000 in fines that have already been issued. “We would eliminate the injunction against flying the flag, but there's been no direction on the lawsuit in terms of money damages,” he said.
Our guess? Lemonis gets to keep his flag, and the great press that has come out of the situation, but he shouldn't hold out hope of ever seeing his $11,000 again.