$1 million to The Citadel hinges on AG's ruling, Charleston County decides

A Confederate Naval Jack hangs in the Summerall Chapel at The Citadel.

Nearly $1 million in Charleston County funds will be disbursed to The Citadel if Attorney General Alan Wilson rules that a Confederate flag in the school's chapel is there legally.

Charleston County Council approved the compromise measure Tuesday in an 8-1 vote, with Councilman Joe Qualey dissenting.

"I think we need to give The Citadel the money. Our word is our bond," he said.

Councilman Elliott Summey, who sponsored the motion, said that county funding for the military college remains in the new budget that begins in July.

"We're in no way de-committing any money to The Citadel," he said.

Prior to the vote, audience members addressed the County Council on the issue.

"I would hope that this body would look at this flag as being divisive. It's always been a black eye for us," said Kevin Williams.

Steven Willis disagreed. "It (the flag) is nothing but a representation of history," he said.

George Tempel said the flag belonged in a museum.

"This is a difficult issue," he said.

Afghanistan veteran Christopher Combs said he worried that African-Americans would stay away from the college because of the flag.

"It's looked at as a racial thing," he said.

The Confederate banner is among dozens of flags hanging in the chapel.

State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, and state Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, asked for the Attorney General's opinion Tuesday in a letter to Wilson.

"Is the presence of the flag and the context in which it came to reside in the chapel consistent with the provisions of (the state Heritage Act)?" the senators ask in the letter to Wilson.

We believe the flag does fall under the provisions of the Heritage Act and requires the protection of the law," the letter says.

Grooms said he thought a decision could be rendered quickly because the issue is not complex.

Council Chairman Teddie Pryor and Councilman Henry Darby met with Citadel President John Rosa to discuss the issue, said Cardon Crawford, the school's director of governmental affairs.

"This is certainly a divisive issue," Crawford said.

Since 2008, the county has provided the college an annual allocation from accommodations tax revenue to pay debt on the Johnson Hagood Stadium renovation. The stadium generates millions in county revenue, he said.

Crawford said he thought the County Council vote on the issue was reasonable.

Darby had said Monday that the accommodations tax funds should be withheld until the Confederate Naval Jack flag is removed from the chapel. He said that he would make a motion to that effect Tuesday night, but instead he voted for Summey's compromise measure.

Darby indicated before the meeting that some council members who had expressed support for his position were now "wavering" on the issue.

The General Assembly passed the Heritage Act in 2000 to protect established monuments and memorials located on public property that represent American wars or events of Native American and African-American significance. The legislation was part of a compromise reached to win support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House and relocating it to a monument on State House grounds, The Citadel said.

The Citadel said it is due to receive $975,000 in accommodations taxes from the county.

The Confederate Naval Jack was presented to the school in 1939 as a "tribute to the courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause," The Citadel said.

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