Association tells Brookfield
veteran to remove banners from mailboxes
flying not a condo freedom
of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By MAI HOANG and MIKE JOHNSON
Posted : Aug. 6, 2002
While post-9-11 patriotic fervor prompts
some states to protect flag flying, a war veteran in Brookfield and his
neighbors are being forced to remove American flags from their mailboxes
as a violation of condo association rules.
|David Toy of Brookfield has adorned
mailboxes with U.S. flags. His condominium association says doing so without
permission violates the rules.
But 10 months after Toy and his neighbors
flew flags above a dozen mailboxes throughout the subdivision, Toy received
a letter from condo association officials ordering him to remove all the
flags he placed on the mailboxes.
|Four states - Arizona, California, Florida
and South Carolina - have passed laws prohibiting condominium and homeowners
associations from banning or restricting residents from displaying the
Several other states are working on similar
bills. Wisconsin has no such law.
David Toy, a World War II veteran and a
resident of Brookfield Lake Condominiums, began placing and displaying
small American flags on his mailbox after Sept. 11. He also bought several
flags to give to his neighbors and friends for their mailboxes.
Ken Plummer, customer relations coordinator
for the Milwaukee branch of the U.S. Postal Service, said the post office
does not not prevent anyone from placing flags or anything else on mailboxes
unless it interferes with delivery.
Toy, a Wauwatosa dentist, came to the United
States from China as a baby and became a U.S. citizen and then fought in
World War II. For him, the flag serves as a reminder of the opportunities
this country has given to his family.
"I think the important thing is the freedoms
the flag represents," he said in an interview this week. "A patriot is
one who wants to defend all these freedoms."
Displaying the flag is also a way to support
his son, Christopher Moy Toy, who is on duty with the Wisconsin Air Guard,
and those who are fighting abroad, Toy said.
"I want people to know that there's a war
on," he said. "There are some ongoing hardships because of this war."
|The condo association board will
discuss the topic of displaying flags at a meeting Aug. 27.
|"I want people to know that there's a war on.
There are some ongoing hardships because of this war."
- David Toy,
World War II veteran who is displaying flags in violation of condo
" It's just one of those rules of condominium
living. It has nothing to do with an American flag. "
- Julie Lane-Vanmeter,
of the condo's property management company
Julie Lane-Vanmeter, an executive assistant
for Ogden and Co., a property management company that runs Brookfield Lake,
said residents do not own the units' mailboxes. They must obtain permission
from the condo association before placing anything on the exterior or outside
commonly owned areas of their condo complex, she explained.
Just one of those rules
"It's just one of those rules of condominium
living. It has nothing to do with an American flag," she said. "Any alteration
like that requires permission from the review design committee because
he's doing it in common areas that he doesn't own."
Because they did not get permission, if
Toy and his neighbors refuse to remove the flags, they could be subject
to fines at the condo association board's request, said Wayne Grabowska,
a property manager for Ogden and Co. Board members will discuss the topic
of displaying flags at a meeting Aug. 27.
Condo association secretary Dorothy Petro
wrote in a letter to Toy last month that if he wants to display an American
flag, he can request permission to install a flagpole holder on his condo's
However, Toy said that option is a poor
alternative because he would have to buy a bigger flag that he would have
to replace more often. Also, he wouldn't be able to buy as many flags for
his neighbors, friends and patients.
"It would be costly if people wanted to
do it," he said. "This (putting flags on the mailbox) is a reasonable and
simple way to fly a flag . . . a very inexpensive way to show patriotism."
Neighbors are also upset
Neighbors who have received flags from
Toy over the last few months have been equally upset.
"We were very angry," Condo resident Joyce
Berens said. "They nitpick about a lot of things. But to tell people they
can't display an American flag is unpatriotic."
Berens' husband, Rollie, agreed.
"They made it sound like we were breaking
the law," he said. "When someone tells you can't display and American flag,
what are we fighting for?"
Similar complaints in other states have
led legislators to act.
California's law was prompted after dozens
of home and condo owners complained about being ordered to take down Old
Glory or face daily fines for breaking association rules. Some were threatened
with liens against their properties.
Swept up in post-9-11 patriotism, many
people were upset to learn that they couldn't have flags in their windows
or on balconies, or erect flagpoles to display the stars and stripes.
Some property associations were even trying
to regulate the fabric of the flags that were displayed, said Andrew House,
a legislative aide for California state Sen. Dick Monteith.
Monteith (R-Modesto) was the author of
California's flag bill, which Gov. Gray Davis signed into law last month.
It takes effect Jan. 1.
"Property owners should be given the same
right as every other United States citizen to fly the American flag, regardless
of where they live," Monteith said in a news release.
Limits found to be widespread
"What happened was after 9-11, we were
made aware of what we thought was an isolated situation," House said in
an interview. But what was discovered was "this was happening all over
the country," House said.
"We had property owners being prohibited
from flying the flag at all. The next-door neighbor of a pilot who died
on Sept. 11 put up a flag, and her homeowners association made her take
it down," House said.
"The senator asked us to draft legislation
to take away that power. His position is no private contractual agreements
should be valid to prohibit an American and California citizen from flying
Other flag types unprotected
California's law applies only to the U.S.
flag. Associations still can prohibit people from flying other flags, such
as the California state flag, House said.
And the law doesn't allow patriotic fervor
to go beyond the U.S. flag, House said.
"We conceded that for aesthetic purposes
it would not desirable, for instance, to have a red, white and blue house.
And we don't want someone to be able to convert their front lawn into a
red, white and blue rock garden," he said.
In South Carolina, state Rep. Becky Meacham-Richardson,
a Fort Mill Republican, said she became furious when she learned a North
Myrtle Beach man was prohibited by his homeowners association from flying
the U.S. flag. The man, Mike Kaminsky, faced fines of up to $25 a day.
So she quickly got a flag bill signed into
"It just incensed me that someone said
we couldn't fly the flag. It was the most unpatriotic thing I had heard
of," Meacham-Richardson said Tuesday.
It would be OK in S.C.
Now in South Carolina, "You can fly the
American flag, any time, anywhere on your property whether you rent own
or lease and the homeowners association can't say anything to anyone,"
With no such law in Wisconsin, Berens said
she and several other residents have talked to condo association officials
about their objection to the removal of the flags. Until further action
is done, she said, the flag will remain on her mailbox.
Another resident, Gerald Strozewski, said
he understood the importance of condo regulations but felt that an exception
should be made.
"When it's a flag and it's patriotism,
that's where you should draw the line." Strozewski said. "I think what
(Toy's) done is right. I think when you can't display a flag, how can we
show my patriotism? The flag does it all."