Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
August 29, 2010
CORAL SPRINGS — Joe Milenkovic enforces the law for a
living, but not when it comes to his "God Bless America" sign.
Milenkovic, 45, the assistant police chief in Delray
Beach, used 4-inch magnetic letters to spell out the patriotic message on his
garage door. Accompanied by six stars and an American flag, the creation nearly
covers the upper half of the door.
His homeowners association is crying foul. The Springs Hamlet association says
Milenkovic's collection of magnetic letters constitutes a sign, and that it's in
violation of their rules that state "no signs shall be displayed without
written approval by the Association."
If Milenkovic wants to exhibit his patriotism, the management for the 45-house
community would prefer he put up a flag.
"We're at war," he said. "I'm not taking it down just yet. We say
we are a free country, and this is what we're about?"
Ann Wactlar, the property manager from Phoenix Management Services, proposed the
flag substitution in an Aug. 4 letter to Milenkovic that also demanded he take
down his "sign."
"Living in an association can sometimes mean a rule or restriction we may
not agree with; however, there is a responsibility to adhere to the governing
documents," she wrote.
Content does not justify an exception, Wactlar wrote. "Your sign is
pleasing and widely accepted, but what about an offensive sign or one not widely
When contacted by a reporter, Wactlar declined to comment.
Some of the neighbors aren't happy with what Milenkovic is doing.
Bill Taylor said what's on the sign is "irrelevant. No one I've talked to
disagrees with the message — you'd have to be stupid. It's about the
He said the no-sign rule has been in place for decades and once allowed the
association to succesfully force another homeowner to remove an "Impeach
Bush" sign that many people found offensive.
"We're not ogres," said his wife, Florence Taylor, vice president of
the association's board of directors. "But we can't tell one person not to
do something and allow another."
Milenkovic argues that his display is not a sign because it consists of
individual magnets, much like the numbers on his house showing his address. He
said a sign is something he could stick in his lawn.
Milenkovic said he knows he is risking fines or assessments, but his message is
worth the fight and he's looking for a lawyer to help him.
"I'm a compliant person; I'm a rule-oriented person," he said.
"But sometimes you have to say, 'this is a rule that makes no sense.'
Somebody's got to stand up and say this isn't right. We're giving away our
wonderful country one day at a time."
Gary Poliakoff, a Fort Lauderdale
-based attorney who specializes in laws governing homeowners associations
and condominiums, has some advice for Milenkovic: Take it down.
"Where do you draw the line?" he said. "What about political
signs, for sale signs, signs expressing opinions?"
Although Milenkovic said this is a matter of free speech, Poliakoff disagreed.
He said the First Amendment protects against government intrusion on free
speech, but "individuals can agree to restrict their own speech, which they
do when they buy into a deed-restricted community."
"At the time he bought into his community, he bought with the knowledge —
actual or implied — that he would be precluded from placing signs."
Milenkovic said he especially wants this sign because he sees it as supporting
American troops. One of his police officers just returned from Iraq and
told stories about explosions and sleeping in sand pits.
"How can you not support them visibly?" he asked.