Gay pride flag over Calistoga City Hall taken down after complaints

The rainbow gay pride flag that flew over Calistoga's City Hall for just three days is back in storage after some residents complained about advocacy banners appearing next to the state and national flags.

"We realized there was a potential legal issue in allowing this group to fly their flag on our pole, then we turn around and some other group would be saying, 'We want to fly our flag, too,'" City Manager Richard Spitler said.

The flag went up Friday to honor Napa County's extended Gay Pride Week, a 10-day festival from June 14 to 23. Resident Scott Klinepier asked the City Council in May to raise the banner and Mayor Chris Canning asked Spitler to see that it happened, provided there was no regulation prohibiting it.

Spitler said his research suggested there was no local, state or federal law prohibiting the display, although it had never been done in Calistoga before, so he authorized raising the banner.

That, however, did not sit well with former Mayor Jack Gingles, who has been involved in city politics for more than three decades. He complained last week, shortly after the flag went up.

"To me, the flag is a statement; it's a form of promotion" that should not be flying in proximity to official government flags, he said. "To me, it's offensive."

Gingles said he has no objection to the city celebrating gay pride, or any other cause, just as long as it is not using the official flagpole to do so.

"If you want to hold a parade, hold a parade," he said. "I'm supportive of a parade."

It was not, however, Gingles' objection alone that brought down the flag midday Monday. Instead it was a question by two-time mayoral candidate, and longtime Gingles nemesis, Kurt Larrecou that finally did the trick.

Larrecou made a request Monday for documents related to how the flag was approved. City officials were forced to admit the council never formally considered the matter and that the city has no policy for how to handle such flag requests.

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