New York Power Company Criticized for Charging American Flag Fee Says It Will Cover Cost

A New York power company that received fierce criticism after it recently billed a group for displaying American flags from utility poles last year said Wednesday that it is working with authorities to address the state law that requires such fees.

The flags had been displayed in Shelter Island, a community on New York’s Long Island, to honor a local soldier killed in Afghanistan.

“We definitely support our men and women who spend every day defending our country,” Vanessa Bair Streeter, a spokeswoman from Long Island Power, told

New York state law requires payment for any papers or flags placed on utility poles -- in this case, a $1.25 fee for each of the 10 flags.

Last week, when Michael Hervey, the power company’s chief operating officer, learned about the bill, he offered to pay it on behalf of the American Legion, Streeter said, but the bill already had been sent and a media firestorm ensued.

Local residents blew a fuse because these flags were first displayed last year for the funeral of Army 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert. The Shelter Island native was killed while on active duty in Afghanistan. He sacrificed his life to save his platoon and was posthumously given the Purple Heart for his actions.

For a recent reunion of members of Theinert's platoon, the town’s superintendent of highways posted flags again on utility poles. But someone from the power company reportedly saw a story about the flags in a local newspaper and informed town officials of the $5-per-flag fee.

However, since the controversy erupted, the company appears to be working with the group to fix the state law.

Mike Loriz, the commander of the American Legion post, told Fox News the power company has been accommodating.

“We don’t think it’s right for New York State to require public volunteer groups like ourselves, who want to put patriotic flags on public utilities, to pay rent,” Loriz said.