HAZLETON, Pa. - The city of Hazleton may face a possible lawsuit by the PA Human Relations Commission, according to a commission spokeswoman on Wednesday.
Mayor Joe Yannuzzi denied a request from a Dominican group, 'La Casa Dominicana' to raise the flag outside of city hall to commemorate the country's independence day on February 27th.
According to Dr. Alton Slane, professor of constitutional law at Muhlenberg College, and Shannon Powers, director of communications for the PA Human Relations Commission, it's the mayor's discretion whether or not to allow other flags to be raised in front of governmental buildings.
However, since Mayor Yannuzzi allowed the Irish flag to be flown in front of city hall for St. Patrick's Day a couple of years ago, he may have violated Pennsylvania's Human Relations Act, according to Powers.
Powers says local governments are public accommodations and face the same rules as restaurants, theaters and businesses that serve the public.
Therefore, "It is a violation of the Pa. Human Relations Act for public accommodations to refuse service on the basis of race, color, ancestry, national origin, sex, religion, disability or the use, handling or training of a support animal for disability," she said in a written statement.
In this instance, the service was raising a flag says Powers.
"It was a one day event and it shouldn't have happened but it did," Yannuzzi said, in reference to the St. Patrick's Day Irish flag decision.
According to Charles Mackenzie, president of AHEPA Lehigh Chapter #60, the organization has been allowed to raise the Greek flag during the 'Greek Independence Day Ceremony' in front of Allentown's city hall since the mid 1920's.
"I just think it gives the people a chance to go back and look at their ancestry and lands that they came from or their parents or grandparents and take pride in it...It's not that it's un-American, they also are first American but they do take pride in their home country," he said.
Allentown spokesperson Michael Moore notes that the city has hosted a number of flag raising events throughout the years to commemorate independence day ceremonies.
The flag is raised ceremonially and lowered at the end of the day, Moore said, and always in compliance with the United States Flag Code.
Powers says that Victor Perez, president of 'La Casa Dominicana,' has filed a complaint with the commission and now, pending the results of the commission's investigation, the City of Hazleton could face a lawsuit.
Allentown, PA 18102