JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville city inspector walked into a Cedar Hills Estate business to issue a warning citation over the display of military flags and employees said she insulted a customer who turned out to be a military veteran.
Surveillance video captured city inspector Melinda Power getting in the face of the customer at Jaguar Power Sports on Blanding Boulevard.
Employees told News4Jax on Monday that she was so disruptive and disrespectful to the veteran, they asked her to leave.
About noon Monday, Power went into the store and issued a written warning citation because she said military flags flying on the roof were in violation of city code. The rooftop display includes two United States flags, a Jacksonville Jaguars flag and flags representing each branch of the military.
“We cater to our men and women, both retired and active military, so it was personal. We felt like it was a personal attack," store manager Marcy Moyer said.
According to employees, the warning caused a customer to become upset. The customer seen in the video is a military veteran who thought it was wrong to force store managers to take down the military flags.
"The way she handled the situation was terrible," Moyer said.
At one point, the video shows Power getting in the man's face.
"She says, 'What did you do for this country?' He says, 'I took three bullets to the leg. I almost lost my life for this country. I'm retired. I'm a veteran.' She gets in his face this close and says, 'You did nothing for this country,'" store employee Katie Klasse said.
Managers said despite the warning citation, the flags would not be going anywhere soon.
Soon after, the word of what happened at Jaguar Power Sports got to the mayor's office.
Mayor Lenny Curry then sent out two tweets about 5:15 p.m.
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
2. We support our military and veterans, and we appreciate businesses who honor their service.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) April 16, 2018
The managers were able to rip up the warning citation and the flags will be able to continue to fly on the roof of Jaguar Power Sports without the business being cited or fined.
Curry's chief of staff, Brian Hughes, issued the following statement to News4Jax, saying the city is looking into the incident and will be reviewing the video:
“We are disturbed by some of the claims made about a City employee and are reviewing the facts. We are also reviewing the current ordinances regarding flags and signs to ensure accurate information was shared. The business was issued a warning, and was not fined. Warnings are issued to provide property owners information about a possible violation, and corrective action.
"I have contacted the dealership and provided the owner with the mayor’s contact information for them to discuss directly. Mayor Curry and his administration respect and appreciate those in uniform who have served and continue to serve our community, and our country.”
There's also a chance city officials could question Power's supervisor, who was also at Jaguar Power Sports at the time of the incident.
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Military veterans call for city inspector's job
Military veterans voiced frustration and concern after Jaguar Power Sports received the written warning citation over the display of military flags on the store's roof.
Many retired service members started showing up at the Westside business after learning of the incident Monday afternoon.
“They’re flying a flag on their building and it’s not out in the street. It’s not in the public right-of-way. All these flags represent people who lived, worked and died serving our country so we can do this," military veteran Dan Arbour told News4Jax. "Somebody needs to school her on what the codes are. She doesn't know what she's talking about."
Many said they were very upset at the city inspector seen in the surveillance video writing the warning citation.
“We have the life we have because of these flags and the men who serve," Arbour added. "I’ve got words for her that I can’t say on TV."
Jaguar Power Sports managers said the store fully supports all branches of the military, and many of their customers are either active or retired service members.
“I was very offended," military veteran Stephen Anthon said. "If this business didn’t support veterans, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
While active-duty personnel can't speak on camera, retirees had no problem voicing their outrage over the flag controversy.
"I was enraged. I’m retired Navy. My son’s retired Army. We put our butts out there and they pull this. I don’t like it," Navy veteran Lanny Austin said. "The way she handled herself was totally disrespectful."
News4Jax looked into what ordinance violation sparked the controversy, but couldn't find anything that would warrant a citation.
Calls to Power's office phone and her supervisor's phone were not returned.