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City sued for firing over Confederate flag plate

A former city employee filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday that claims he was fired for keeping a front license plate that depicted the Confederate flag.

Larry Carpenter, who worked as a traffic maintenance specialist for six years, says in the lawsuit that he had the plate on his personal truck and parked in the same lot almost every day.

In the suit, Carpenter claims to be a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a non-profit, non-political historical organization of male descendants of Confederate soldiers. He used the license plate to show "pride in Southern heritage," the suit says.

In January 2002, he was told by a supervisor to remove the plate, the suit says. A dispute ensued, and the city suspended Carpenter without pay on four occasions. The city then fired him Sept. 11 for failing to comply with the order to remove the plate.

The suit says only one person complained about the plate in the six years he worked for the city and that person later rescinded the complaint.

Carpenter also says he received numerous awards and letters of recognition during his tenure with the city and that his only discipline was for an "alleged abuse of sick time."

Carpenter is suing on the grounds that his First Amendment rights were violated and that the termination was in violation of the Florida Constitution. He is seeking to be rehired with back pay.

Neither Carpenter nor city officials could be reached for comment late Tuesday.