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Old Lyme — Thanks to an observant and persistent East Lyme resident, the Connecticut state flag is no longer flying higher than the American flag outside the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's marine headquarters on Ferry Road.
Last week, Joseph Mingo contacted DEEP after visiting the headquarters with his wife, Barbara, to walk its boardwalk, which extends along the Connecticut River. They noticed that the American flag, flown on a diagonal pole off the main center flagpole, was flying at a lower elevation than the state flag, which was on the center pole.
"No flag can fly higher than the American flag," Mingo said Friday. He said he called an official at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton and received confirmation that the flags at DEEP were not being flown according to proper flag protocol.
In its initial response to Mingo last Monday, DEEP said that because the Old Lyme office is a maritime facility with a maritime-style flagpole, it flew the American flag on the diagonal "gaff" pole, a place of honor on a ship that points in the direction the ship is heading. In an email to Mingo, DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen said DEEP was following the directions of a letter from the American Legion about flag etiquette, and attached a copy of the letter to her message to Mingo.
Last Wednesday, Aluin Morales, protocol officer at the sub base, contacted Whalen and also sent her an email message. He said that while DEEP is correct in flying the American flag in the "gaff" position, the state flag should be flown from the lower "yardarm" position perpendicular to the center pole and lower than the "gaff." Only triangular pennants should be flown on the center pole higher than the American flag, Morales said. The pennants would indicate "something of importance taking place at that very moment," such as storm warnings, small craft warnings and hurricane warnings, he said.
"Most pennants are significantly smaller than flags (and) they are usually shaped like a triangle or a swallow-tail or rather small squares, never rectangular," he wrote.
On Thursday, DEEP staff moved the state flag from the center pole to the yardarm position. No flag or pennant is currently being flown on the center pole, said Dwayne Gardner, DEEP spokesman.
Mingo said that he is satisfied that DEEP has moved the state flag.
"I'm very happy, except that they haven't acknowledged anything to me," he said.
He added that he has been driving to other local public places to check how the American flag is being flown, and wants more people to become educated about proper flag protocol.