JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 1,700 people have signed one of three petitions on change.org that calls for the Jacksonville code enforcement inspector who gave a warning citation to a Westside business over its military flags to be fired.
Melinda Power, along with her supervisor, were suspended with pay Tuesday by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry after the story of her issuing a warning to Jaguar Power Sports and a video of her confronting a customer who objected to her actions went viral late Monday. As of Wednesday morning, that video had 9 million views on Facebook. News4Jax coverage of the controversy was also widely shared and has had nearly 1 million views.
The warning citation over a rooftop display that includes two United States flags, flags representing every branch of the U.S. military and a Jacksonville Jaguars flag was rescinded by the city.
Employees said a customer, who happened to be a wounded warrior, overheard Power issuing the citation and got upset. They said when he objected, she insulted him, saying he “did nothing for this country.”
Curry told News4Jax on Tuesday that he personally apologized to the veteran and the business owners.
Curry said that, as the city looks at the incident and reviews ordinances in place, every business and resident in Jacksonville can fly a military or American flag.
“What's most important here is -- let's boil this down: I expect city employees to respect the American flag, to respect flags of the branches of the United States military,” Curry said.
READ: Controversy over display of military flags caught on camera |
Inspector posts apology after military flag controversy |
Store owner explains what started flag controversy
UNCUT: Surveillance video shows city inspector confront veteran |
Interview with Mayor Curry on flag controversy
Should she be fired?
Dawn Zaleski-Ingelsby, a Boston woman who started one of the petitions, told News4Jax that her father is a veteran and as soon as she heard that Power was rude to a veteran she had to speak up.
"I come from a military family. My father was a Vietnam veteran. I was very offended what Miss Power did to the gentleman. I started the petition to see a different venue of venting. (so people could) write their name and vent how they felt."
Mayor Curry said discipline for the incident could include termination but that would come after a thorough investigation and that Power and her supervisor are entitled to due process.
Councilman Garrett Dennis, who represents the area where the business is located, said it appears from the video that Power was in the wrong, but that she still deserves a fair investigation.
The customer who was confronted by Power does not want to be named, but told News4Jax he'd like Power to apologize to the veteran community. He added that he "doesn't want anyone to lose their job."
Marcy Moyer, the sales manager of Jaguar Power Sports, appreciates the support, but they don't want to see Power lose her job.
"We don't wish her any ill will," Moyer said. "The city of Jacksonville is taking responsibility and whatever that means. People need to support what the city of Jacksonville deems appropriate for their employee."
Power, who has been attacked on social media across the country over the incident, apologized Monday night in a Facebook post that was later removed from her page.
Power described the incident more as a misunderstanding, saying she thought the customer had asked, "Do you know what I did?" And that she responded, "Nothing."
She said tempers flared after that, adding, "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."
Moyer said Power was originally at the shop because the business had signs displayed too close to a sidewalk. She said the business has been “slapped on the wrist” for marketing before, but it was the warning over the flags that set off the firestorm.
Moyer said she never expected the swell of community support, but added that threats lodged against Power are uncalled for.
“Leave this woman alone. Let the city of Jacksonville do their job and (do) what they see fit,” Moyer said. “It is their employee to deal with. We brought it to their attention and they are definitely addressing it.”
Jaguar Power Sports is now selling custom T-shirts online for $10. Jackrel said the proceeds will go to a local military charity.