Harrison County

Biloxi council can force mayor to fly state flag on city buildings, AG opinion says

Protesters hold state flags outside Biloxi City Hall after the mayor ordered the flags removed from all city buildings.
Protesters hold state flags outside Biloxi City Hall after the mayor ordered the flags removed from all city buildings. meperez@sunherald.com File

The Biloxi City Council can pass a resolution that will force Mayor Andrew “Fofo” Gilich to fly the state flag on city buildings, an opinion from the Mississippi attorney general’s office says.

Gilich in April 2017 ordered that the state flag be removed from all city buildings. He had removed the flag with its Confederate emblem from City Hall after taking office in mid-2015, then issued his order when he learned the flag had not been removed from all buildings.

After Gilich issued the order, the city council was set to consider an ordinance that would require flying the flag. The council decided to request an attorney general’s opinion before voting on the ordinance.

The Attorney General’s Office issued the opinion, which does not carry the weight of law, at the request of city attorney Peter Abide.

Attorney General Jim Hood said a resolution would be more appropriate because the current council can not bind future councils to the decision.

Mississippi is the only state in the nation that incorporates the Confederate battle emblem in its state flag. State universities and other entities have stopped flying it.

Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson made the decision to return the state flag to city hall after he took office in July.

Gilich believes the state flag inhibits tourism and hurts the city’s image.

"My position is unchanged,” he said in a news release. “I stand by the action that was taken on this issue."

Council members had no comment during a Tuesday meeting when Abide briefed them on the attorney general’s opinion. He said they would need to adopt a resolution rather than an ordinance to fly the state flag.

The attorney general’s opinion said the council can’t bind future councils to the flag decision, which an ordinance would do.

Those for and against the Mississippi flag rub shoulders again at Biloxi Council. Video by Mary Perez/Sun Herald meperez@sunherald.com

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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