Did anybody notice recently that the flag of the United States was flown at half-staff in Naperville?
I didn’t until a friend called me and asked “did something happen for the flag to be at half-staff?” I said, not that I know of, but I hadn’t watched the news that morning. I quickly turned Fox news on, but there was no indication anything had happened. I checked the internet, but still no mention of something happening that would justify flying the flag at half-staff. Then I called city hall to see if they might know, and the city clerk’s office said that former Naperville mayor Rybicki had passed away on March 6. He was the mayor of Naperville from 1975 – 1983 and served two terms. He was 96.
I thought to myself that his passing was unfortunate, but does that qualify to fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff? Maybe the city flag qualifies when a local politician dies, but the U.S. Flag? I’m a very curious person, so I did some quick research and unless you are reading the criteria with a very broad interpretation, this doesn’t happen for a local official. Where do you draw the line. How about a alderman, or council person, or a school board member, or some other local government official or worker. I say this with all due respect for the departed, and in this case former mayor Chester Rybicki.
Shouldn’t the United States flag fly at half-staff for events or people who are or have been on the national scene, while local officials are remembered or shown respect with the city flag at half-staff?
Now before you think I am ‘anti-mayor’, I’m not. In fact, I played the part of former mayor Grush in Naperville’s Sesquicentennial play in 1981. I also played the part of John Naper (Joe’s brother) in the same play, so I like the Naper brothers and Naperville.
To make it more confusing, while some U.S. Flags were flying at half-staff in Naperville, others remained at full staff, so apparently, the word didn’t get out. I contacted the Naperville city clerk’s office for clarification on who approved the half-staff flag and what specific regulation allowed it to happen. They couldn’t answer the question, and referred me to the mayor’s office. They also couldn’t answer the question, and referred me to the city attorney’s office. I called and had to leave a message on voice mail. That was no surprise since the city of Naperville finds itself getting sued quite often lately. The legal department must be very busy, and will only get busier unless new leadership prevails in the upcoming council elections.
I did get a call and an answer a few days later from the Naperville legal department. To their credit they did confirm that authorizing the flag to be flown at half-staff was ‘outside the parameters’ of the U.S. Flag Code, “only the President of the United States, your state’s Governor, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia can order the US flag lowered to half-staff.” If everyone were to half-staff the US flag at will, the symbolic value of that honor would be lost.
Nobody knows who authorized the U.S. Flag to be incorrectly flown at half-staff. It’s amazing how quiet it becomes in the offices, corridors, and inky shadows of city hall when it comes to accountability.
The city of Naperville has a very good legal department. If the mayor, city manager, and Naperville city council utilized that resource more effectively before acting on their own, they would undoubtedly save the city and residents money and time. The legal department would then have time to answer the phone rather than trying to undue and the wrong-doing by city officials.