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Ex-judge, city may still be poles apart

Gary Graham has come up with a new plan for placing a flagpole near his office. But an Inverness official says the new idea won't work either.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


INVERNESS -- Gary Graham just can't find a flagpole site that will please city officials.

The ex-judge's first proposal, to put a 21-foot flagpole atop the 19-foot sign at his 407 Courthouse Square law office, would have clashed with the historic architecture in the downtown area, Inverness Development Services director Bill Wiley said.

Graham's second proposal, to install a 39-foot flagpole 31/2 feet north of his law office sign, would not leave enough room for cars to back out of some spaces in Graham's small parking lot, Wiley said.

"There are other places on this site where you could put up a flagpole," Wiley told the city's Architectural/Aesthetics Review Committee on Wednesday. "I just have concerns about this particular location."

The committee voted down Graham's first flagpole design two months ago. On Wednesday, it decided to postpone a decision on the second request until July 19.

Graham was not at the committee's meeting Wednesday, and he did not return a reporter's phone call. Graham, who was removed from the bench in 1993 for judicial misconduct, has complained in the past that the city is trying to prevent him from flying the American flag.

"Our Architectural/Aesthetic Review Committee has apparently taken upon themselves the authority to deny American citizens the freedom to fly the very symbol of freedom we are so proud of and for which so many have sacrificed so much," Graham wrote last month in a letter to the city after the committee denied his first proposal.

Wiley said the American flag has nothing to do with it.

The city evaluates all proposed structures in the downtown area to make sure they are compatible and meet the city's land development code requirements. So far, Wiley said, Graham's flagpole plans have not met those standards.

But he said Graham should be able to find a place for a flagpole on his property that would meet the city's requirements.

In a separate issue, Graham butted heads this week with the New Inverness Olde Towne Association over the placement of a live radio remote near his home and office for the July 3 Uncle Sam Jam 2000 Celebration.

Graham has regularly complained about the noise that downtown festivals bring to his home, which sits above his law office across from the historic former courthouse.

Members of the Olde Towne Association were hoping things would be different this time because Graham sits on the group's board of directors. Association president Winston Perry said he was surprised when Graham sent him a letter, via certified mail, complaining about the site for the radio broadcast.

"He said it was a nuisance," Perry said. "He said he had legal rights to not have nuisances in front of his office."

Perry said the association moved the radio broadcast site to the other end of Main Street, across from Coach's pub, to avoid a conflict with Graham. But he said he wished Graham had talked to him instead of sending a formal letter with "a legalese slant to it."

"I got (Graham) on the board of directors because I felt it was an opportunity for him to try to work with everyone and be cooperative," Perry said. "Obviously it didn't turn out that way."

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