The upscale Florida enclave of Palm Beach is in a tiff over Donald Trump. The real estate mogul and billionaire reality show host has upset the town council by flying an oversized US flag on an oversized pole, and now the town has voted to fine Trump $1,250 for every day the flag is up.
The brouhaha began when Trump put up the 15-by-25-foot flag, which sits atop an 80-foot flagpole located in his ritzy country club, Mar-A-Lago. The city's zoning board says the flag violates the 4-feet-by-6-feet size limit and that the pole violates Palm Beach building codes, which state no structure can be taller than 42 feet. The board also says Trump didn't apply for the necessary permits to erect the flag.
On Thursday, city officials voted to begin fining Trump $1,250 per day retroactively to January 6, making the fine $17,500 so far. Trump has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the city and 20 other code violators the city hasn't fined, claiming officials are selectively enforcing the codes and squelching his expression of free speech.
"The town should treat everyone the same. Bring them before the board all at once," Trump attorney Raymond Royce told the Palm Beach Post.
"The town council of Palm Beach should be ashamed of itself," Trump told The Associated Press. "They're fining me for putting up the American flag. This is probably a first in United States history."
"I think Mr. Trump...picked this fight. I think he's been provocative," countered a zoning board member.
"We have limited manpower. We'll address other violators as we have time," Veronica Close, the town's planning and zoning director, told the Post. "If we waited until everyone in town was cited for every similar violation, we'd never get any cases to the board."
Trump says he won't back down on the flag or pay the city a dime in fines, and he hopes to grind the town down with a lengthy legal battle.
"It's all up in the court. It'll be a long time, unfortunately."
Trump's sixth season of The Apprentice premiered to strong ratings on January 7, scoring 9.1 million viewers, but dipped in its most recent Sunday outing. This season the show has moved from its usual perch in New York to Los Angeles and features the weekly losing team of contestants sleeping in tents and "roughing it" on the grounds of Trump's mansion.