Flag flap over as Wolfeboro man withdraws lawsuit. Score one for the good guys!

by Doug

Wolfeboro flags

Route 28, Wolfeboro, NH

I just got off the phone with Wolfeboro Town Manager David W. Owen who told me that, regarding the flag-removal lawsuit,

"It’s our understanding that it’s been withdrawn."

Though the Selectboard has not yet seen it, they were informed by a reporter at last night’s regular meeting that the Granite State News of Wolfeboro is in receipt of a letter stating Mr. Claude Roessiger is planning to withdraw his suit filed against the town. Asked by GraniteGrok for a statement, Mr. Owen said the Selectmen

"are pleased he’s withdrawn what would have been a waste of the taxpayers’ money."

While earlier this morning Carroll County Superior Court Clerk Patricia Lenz indicated nothing had changed with regards to the lawsuit’s status, a check with Mr. Roessiger’s legal counsel’s office has confirmed that the Town Manager and Selectmen are indeed correct. The attorney on the case, William L. Chapman of Orr & Reno P.A., is out of the office for the rest of the week, but,

"upon his return on June 9th will notify the Court that the case will be withdrawn."

There are a few additional facts that are part of this story…

Following the initial letter to the Wolfeboro BOS in November asking removal of all flags except those on public buildings (posted here), Mr. Roessiger waited for a response from the town. In the absence of any, he followed it with a second letter at the beginning of December asking for their response to his complaint. Again hearing nothing, he sent them a third letter, in which he threatened a lawsuit, writing that they engage in dialogue,

or we can– once again– find ourselves in a situation which will involve our attorneys, a certain acrimony, and– to be sure– publicity. I will see to it.

At this point, Mr. Roessiger claimed he would file suit simply because they hadn’t responded to him, not because of whether the BOS agreed with him. Fair enough, although it seems odd to me that Mr. Roessiger was good at sending letters, but never bothered to show up in front of the Selectmen in person. I don’t know about you, but if I were sending correspondence to my Selectmen and they didn’t respond, I’d go to a meeting and get right in their face. The folks at the Wolfeboro Town offices confirmed that Mr. Roessiger never appeared in person before the board regarding the matter. A check of the meeting minutes shows public input is taken at every single meeting.

The town responded to his letters a few days following the litigation threat:

 

January 25, 2008
Claude Roessiger
Stoneham Lane
Wolfeboro, NH 03894

Dear Mr. Roessiger,

This is in response to your letter to the Board of Selectmen of November 2, 2007, in which you raise questions about the display of the American flag in Wolfeboro, and your letters of December 4, 2007 and January 21, 2008.

I did not respond to your earlier letters for a couple of reasons: (1) I had no direction from the Board of Selectmen to do so, and (2) I have never before seen or handled a complaint quite like yours, involving the alleged excessive display of the American flag in a community.

My understanding of your contention is to the effect that the display of the American flag (or what you consider the excessive display of the flag) on Town property constitutes "the expression of political opinion on public property", which you do not believe should be allowed. My reaction to your contentions is twofold. First, I do not believe the American flag represents any one political party or political view. If you watch the current series of primary elections of both major political parties, they are bothe bedecked in American flags virtually all the time. So I do not believe that the display of the American flag constitutes partisan political speech.

However, even if the display of the American flag does constitue political speech, political speech is specifically protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and may not be reasonabley restrained.

Finally, your threat to bring an action against the Town for not having previously responded to your letters, as contained in your letter of January 21, 2008, would seem to be totally out of proportion with the situation. The unnecessary expenditures of resources that would be involved, both on the part of the Town and yourself, in pursuing such a course of action would be unwise, to say the least. I trust you will concur.

David W. Owen

Town Manager

CC: Board of Selectmen

A day later Mr. Roessiger responded, disagreeing (no surprise) and, after noting he too prefered to avoid litigation, offered for both sides to consult "someone expert in constitutional law" and then meet.

"We bring these two together before us to understand and weigh their views. If the weight seems to favor your perspective, I shouldn’t think it necessary to take matters further, on the other hand if the weight favors my perspective, those flags which may be self-evidently be considered unusual and not habitual– in short, those we never had– come down."

Three weeks later… enter the lawyers (well, lawyer). In subsequent letters from both Mr. Roessiger’s counsel and himself, the legalese mounted, and he threw in yet another wrinkle: let him mount placards with a George Washington quote about foreign entanglements on each pole sporting a flag. Ultimately, the town rightfully denied this, too, and on May 29th, Mr. Roessiger filed suit.

Several days later, following a posting here on GraniteGrok, Skip emailed the story to our military family friends– including the Blue and Gold Star Mothers, or as we like to fondly call them, the "Moms of Fury." Heh! That in turn started an Internet blog-swarm that fueled comments, phone calls, and emails flooding the company run by Mr. Roessiger who, it seems, got the message loud and clear! There was even talk of a visit to the town to stand guard over the flags in place, and a plan to mail Mr. Roessiger flags of all shapes and sizes (which I still hope people will do).

Today, thankfully, the story concludes with a happy ending: Wolfeboro will keep its flags, and won’t have to waste taxpayers’ dollars to do so!     Cool

Wolfeboro flag

An "excessive and unusual" display? Not hardly.

 

Leave a Comment

  • See comments at the first post on this here: http://granitegrok.com/blog/2008/06/dope_of_the_week_award.html
    Or leave one here.

  • angellica

    we should never take down the flag..it has nothing to do with the president..but it stands for america..its freedom..and liberty and most of all it represents all those who have fallen in all the wars throughout history…. if we ever took it down..america would fall..because all it stood for would be ripped down with the flag..the flag is a very important symbol of our country and represents so much more than people could imagine!

  • mer

    Why is it that people can put up a flag on their house denoting holidays or seasons, but they putting up our country’s flag is “too much trouble”? Growing up there we always had the Stars and Stripes flying. After getting married, moving into our first house, the first thing up was a flag. Still have one up on our second house.
    People should be fined for NOT flying a flag.

  • “America. Love it or LEAVE it”!!! Perhaps Mr. Roessiger should leave.

  • howiem

    Maybe the apology is too private to publish? Just who did he apologize to? Where is it posted? His company web site has a disclaimer that his statements have nothing to do with the cxompany, but do not even mention his name. And although apologies in cases like this really prove nothing, I think that the pressure on Roessinger and his company should be maintained until the “apology” is made public. This jerk should go back to his origins in Switzerland and make chocolate bars. He’s probably still blaming Bush because his daughter was arrested a couple of years ago (eventually cleared) by some over-enthusiastic police in his home town. Do a search for Claude Roessinger daughter arrested and you will see what I am talking about.

  • howiem

    Maybe the apology is too private to publish? Just who did he apologize to? Where is it posted? His company web site has a disclaimer that his statements have nothing to do with the cxompany, but do not even mention his name. And although apologies in cases like this really prove nothing, I think that the pressure on Roessinger and his company should be maintained until the “apology” is made public. This jerk should go back to his origins in Switzerland and make chocolate bars. He’s probably still blaming Bush because his daughter was arrested a couple of years ago (eventually cleared) by some over-enthusiastic police in his home town. Do a search for Claude Roessinger daughter arrested and you will see what I am talking about.

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