Discussion over Confederate flag in Hillsborough County Center lobby

A Hillsborough County Commissioner called Wednesday for the removal of a Confederate flag that hangs in the Hillsborough County Center lobby.

Commissioner Les Miller said he hadn't noticed the flag during the five years he's been in office but recently began receiving phone calls about it.

"I was a little shocked. But I immediately realized, 'hey, this has to come down because this is a Confederate flag,'" said Miller, a Democrat.

A replica of the Third National Flag of the Confederacy went up in the County Center in 1994 as part of a resolution to remove the Confederate symbol from the county seal. It hangs alongside the flags of Spain, France and Great Britain  -- all of which had colonies in Florida -- and the U.S.

Miller, however, sees a big difference.

"The Confederacy was never a country, so it should not be there," he said.

The flag hanging in the lobby is slightly different than the Confederate Battle Flag, which over time came to  represent the Confederacy.

Miller sees no difference in what the flags represent.

"The flag represents hatred," he told FOX 13. "It represents discrimination and it shouldn't be in a government building and it's time to come down."

Commissioner Stacy White, a Republican, disagrees and said he's "incensed" that this has become an issue. In a  statement to FOX 13, White wrote:

"It sets a dangerous precedent to attempt to erase, or worse rewrite history...The flag in the County Center lobby is displayed in a respectful and dignified manner that is clearly within a historical context...There is not a  Confederate battle flag in County Center, rather the third Confederate National Flag is part of an overall display of flags that have flown over Hillsborough County within its history."

White said he'd like to see the issue placed on November 2016 ballot so voters can decide.

Like Commissioners Miller and White, some folks in Tampa have different opinions.

"I think the Southeast, we've overcome so many hurdles in the past and I think at this point in time it should not be hung anywhere," said Wil Fredo, who had stopped by the County Center Wednesday morning.

"My belief on that is that it is history," said Robert Queirolo, who has worked in the building for several weeks and hadn't noticed the flag. "I don't think it necessarily has to fly in a county building, but I don't think the flag should be banned or should be taken down. Don't erase history. It is a part of history."

FOX 13 reached out to the other five commissioners but did not get a response.

The issue will go before the County Commission during its July 15 meeting.