A restaurant that claimed they were cited in July for flying the American flag has filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Prairie Grove, saying their First Amendment rights were violated.
During an August 25 administrative hearing, the Village of Prairie Grove dismissed two citations against Gianelli’s Drive-Thru, located at 3111 Route 176 in Prairie Grove, which is northeast of Crystal Lake.
The Prairie Grove Police Department issued the business two citations, each carrying a $100 fine, on July 16, according to the McHenry County Blog, which obtained copies of the citations through a FOIA request.
The first citation stated that the restaurant was improperly displaying the flags in violation of the village’s ordinance and that the flags should be displayed only on permanent flagpoles or staffs.
The second citation stated that the flagpoles should be set back a minimum of 15 feet from the property line.
The following day, Terry Trobiani, the manager of Gianelli’s, and supporters of his gathered in front of the restaurant along Route 176 to protest the actions of the village.
One of the signs held by a protester said “This business fined $200 for flying U.S. flag” while another protester’s sign said “Bill of rights $200 fine for flying the red, white and blue.”
The Village of Prairie Grove released a lengthy three-page press release and said the accusations of them citing the business for flying the flags are “false and a gross misrepresentation of facts and circumstances.”
The village said Trobiani has been a long-time vocal critic of the village’s ordinance that regulates business signage and high-visibility temporary signs such as a-frames, feather flags and banners.
Village officials said in the statement that their town is a “predominantly residential community with high aesthetic standards, including reasonable regulations of temporary signage.”
“The Village of Prairie Grove enthusiastically encourages the proper flying of the United States flag. The Village’s Municipal Code sets forth regulations for displaying the US flag and furthermore adopts the United States Flag Code therein,” the statement said.
Village officials say their ordinance sets provisions for flying the United States flag so that it is “displayed with the utmost respect that it deserves.”
“For that reason, the Village upholds its high standards and requires all US flags to be flown from permanent flag poles or staffs. Manager Trobiani received a copy of the pertinent Village code, and chose to use the American flag disrespectfully, as a weapon to fight the Village on his issue with the sign ordinance,” village officials said.
“Manager Trobiani has misled both the Press and the public into thinking that the Village of Prairie Grove cited him simply for flying a US flag, when in fact Manager Trobiani’s actions were very clearly intended to taunt the Village and stoke a fire under the guise of civil liberties,” the statement added.
During the August 25 hearing, the village said they dismissed the tickets against the business because they were found in compliance.
Trobiani and his lawyer, Robert Hanlon, along with supporters of the restaurant, appeared at the hearing, the McHenry County Blog reported.
After the brief hearing was over, Hanlon handed the village attorney a copy of a federal lawsuit that they were filing against the village.
A 12-page complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on August 25, court records show.
The lawsuit states the village violated the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights and their civil rights.
The suit asked the court to prohibit the village from enforcing the municipal code relating to flags and award the plaintiffs for damages and attorney fees.