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As Bramson and Rice Hide From Media, New Rochelle City Manager Tells Evolving Tale of How How "Don't Tread on Me Flag" Came Down

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As Bramson and Rice Hide From Media, New Rochelle City Manager Tells Evolving Tale of How How "Don't Tread on Me Flag" Came Down

April 26, 2013 - 21:35

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The tough part about telling lies is that the more you tell the more difficult it is to keep your story straight, as beleaguered New Rochelle City Manager Chuck Strome is learning the hard way. Even worse is when you lie and there are written records that contradict your public comments to the press. This is the price paid for trying to cover for Noam Bramson in New Rochelle.

Strome has twisted himself into a pretzel trying to justify why he ordered the New Rochelle Department of Public Works to remove the Gadsden Flag raised at the New Rochelle Naval Militia Armory, a move that has brought national attention (and ridicule) to New Rochelle. Initially Strome told one story, then told another story to CBS 2 News, and now, in his latest variation, Strome has told yet another, all of it contradicted by his own emails.

Strome's latest whopper, as told to AP White Plains Bureau Chief Jim Fitzgerald, is that after the veterans presented him with information about the history of the flag, he told the veterans he would hold off until he could check with City Council members:

City: No 'Don't Tread on Me' flag on public land

Strome said he wasn't aware of the tea party link either, "but we got a few complaints that it was affiliated." He said he did his own research and concluded, "They've basically taken the flag and written tea party all over it."

Strome said he told the veterans it would have to be removed. But after they presented him with information about the flag's long history, he said he agreed to hold off until he could check with city council members (emphasis added).

"The majority preferred to have the flag come down," he said, and city workers removed it a week after it went up.

At an April 9 council meeting, members voted 5-2 against putting the flag back up. It was a party-line vote with a Democratic majority.

Not quite. Not only is this not true but it is demonstrably false as the following e-mail exchange between New Rochelle City Manager Chuck Strome and UVMPA President Peter Parente, in reverse chronological order, proves.

[Not contained in the exchange is a phone call which took place around 9:00 a.m. on March 28th, after which Parente sent out a celebratory e-mail praising Strome (inserted into the exchange below) for giving the OK for the flag to remain.]

A few hours later Strome shocked the vets, ordered the flag taken down and had it confiscated.

----Original Message-----
From: Strome, Chuck
To: devildogpete
Cc: Tergis, Alex ; Gill, Kathleen
Sent: Thu, Mar 28, 2013 12:31 pm
Subject: RE: Re: Armory flags

-----Original Message-----
Dear Mr. Parente:

Please be advised that a majority of the New Rochelle City Council has requested that the flag be removed. As a result, the Public Works Department will remove the flag.

Chuck Strome
City Manager

-----Original Message-----
From: [email protected]
Subject: ARMORY FLAG STAYS!!! SAYS CITY MANAGER CHUCK STROME III
Date: March 28, 2013 9:41:57 AM EDT
To: UVMPA List

After NR City Manager Chuck Strome researched & slept on making a decision on weather to let our flags fly FREELY at the NR Naval Militia Armory on E Main Street or to order our Gadsden Flag to be removed......... LET FREEDOM RING in New Rochelle. The flag Stays say Chuck Strome III.

The City Manager has always been a fair minded gentleman when dealing with the NR Vets and we applaud him on his decision.

The Gadsden Flag was the First Flag of our Nation....the US Navy & Marine Corps fought the American Revolution under that flag and we will stand under it and fight again if we must!!

Peter Parente
United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association -NR

-----Original Message-----
From: Strome, Chuck
To: devildogpete
Sent: Wed, Mar 27, 2013 4:45 pm
Subject: RE: Re: Armory flags

Let me sleep on it – I would like to talk with you about this. What number can you be reached at tomorrow?

(emphasis added)

-----Original Message-----
From: devildogpete
To: Cstrome
Sent: Wed, Mar 27, 2013 4:15 pm
Subject: Re:Re: Armory flags
That flag has been around since the conception our our Military. LONG before this great nation was even formed That is what it represents. A strong America. It is sad when we can't even be American anymore because people get offended that some of us are proud to be just that...AMERICAN. Please direct any of those complaint to me and I will be happy to take care them for you. I know you have better things to do. If you search "American Flags"...that flag will pop up too.

Peter P

-----Original Message-----
From: Strome, Chuck
To: devildogpete
Sent: Wed, Mar 27, 2013 3:56 pm
Subject: RE: Re: Armory flags

I appreciate the information but a simple google or bing search of tea party flags will show that this flag has been adopted for use by the Tea Party. Additionally, there was no mention of an additional flag in your original email to me. Whether it was your intent or not (and I believe you that it was not) to put something up that is associated with a political group, it is clear that the flag, for whatever reason, is now associated with this group.

-----Original Message-----
From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 3:36 PM
To: Strome, Chuck
Subject: Re: Armory flags
Importance: Low

Please read this first. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadsden_flag

----Original Message-----
From: Strome, Chuck
To: devildogpete
Cc: louistrangucci ; TARCOR211 ; Jared Rice ([email protected]) ; Ivar Hyden for City Council ([email protected]) ; Barry Fertel ([email protected]) ; sharibrackman ; Noam Bramson ; Tergis, Alex
Sent: Wed, Mar 27, 2013 3:06 pm
Subject: FW: Armory flags

Mr. Parente:

I have received numerous complaints relative to the yellow flag (pictured below) that was hung underneath the American Flag at the Armory. The complaints are that the flag is a political flag with a political message. I am not sure exactly what the flag is or what it represents but in your email to me relative to the ceremony last week, you only mentioned that you would be replacing the American Flag and never mentioned this flag. I have been advised by several people that this flag is a Tea Party Flag.

The purpose of this email is to advise you that I have directed the City’s Department of Public Works to remove this flag from the Armory flagpole. You may contact DPW to pick up the flag.

Chuck Strome
City Manager

----Original Message-----
From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 3:02 PM
To: Strome, Chuck
Cc: Gilwit, Kathy; Marshall, George; [email protected]
Subject: Replacing the Nations Colors at the Armory 3/21 @6pm

Mr City Manager,

Just want to pass along that the United Veterans of New Rochelle will be retiring our tattered Nations Colors at The Armory on E Main Street Thursday 3/21 @ 6 PM

We will donate a brand new 5' x 8' Flag and also will install a new solar panel light to illuminate OLD GLORY. The service should only take us 15-20 min's and we expect approximately dozen people. Councilman Trangucci thought it would be best to let you know and mentioned something about an "Open Air" permit??

Peter Parente
UVMPA-NR President

Strome needs to keep shifting his story because the entire basis for his legal claim that he had the authority to remove the flag rests on his false claim that the UVMPA required permission to put up the flag and that they did not receive permission.

As we noted earlier in the week:

City Manager Chuck Strome says "no permission asked for or granted to fly this flag on city property". Three problems with this: (1) under the authority granted to the United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association by the City Council in 1958 they are not required to obtain permission to fly a particular flag at the Armory, at Memorial Plaza, at Hudson Park or certain other areas in connection with their memorial and patriotic responsibilities; (2) In 2006, during an unrelated dispute about veterans about flying a particular flag at Memorial Plaza, Strome declined a request by some veterans to intervene in the flag dispute and directed them to resolve the matter amongst themselves; (3) after the initial complaint brought by Council Member Jared Rice, the City Manager told the United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association the flag could remain in place. It was only taken down after an informal canvas of Council Members conducted by New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson.

He is also seeking shift more responsibility on to himself and away from Noam Bramson who this week became the Democratic Party nominee for Westchester County Executive. Notably, neither Bramson nor Council Member Jared Rice did not cooperate with story after instigating the entire controversy by removing flag that has been often raised by the veterans on public property without the slightest concern by either Bramson or Rice.

The entire affair appears to be little more that a cynical political stunt by Bramson to "go left" to appeal to the Democratic base going into the Democratic Convention on Wednesday. As he moves into the general and seeks to pivot towards the center, Bramson has no more use for the flag issue (or Rice's supposed concerns over the "offensive" and "divisive" nature of the flag) and so the pair are now hiding from the media.

Unfortunately for them, the media is still on the trail. After the AP story, CBS Radio 880 called to do a story and more media stories are coming. Next up, watch as the large media begins to connect Bramson's antipathy to local veterans to his broader disdain for the military in general as evidenced by his leadership role in keeping ROTC off the Harvard University campus in the earlier 90's.

For his part, Rice has professed to some a desire to "diffuse" the situation to "protect his family" all the while stoking racial sensitivities in attempt to get the story back in the news. While telling veterans groups and media outlets including this one, that he wanted the whole story to go away, Rice has duplicitously spent the past week trying to convince leaders in the African-American community to join him in a press conference on the steps of City Hall in a clumsy effort to link local veterans to his claims to have received offensive, racist messages from people in Tennessee and elsehwere.

New Rochelle police have confirmed receiving a harassment complaint from an unidentified City Council member which is consistent with statements made by Rice to Talk of the Sound. Police declined to provide further information due an ongoing criminal investigation into the complaint.