Article Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel
the flagpole battle but losing the war
By Howard Goodman
April 1, 2003
Is there any force more powerful than a
Ask George Andres.
Here's a guy who has rallied veterans groups,
school kids and the state attorney general to his cause -- the right to
fly a flag on a 12-foot pole in front of his townhouse in Jupiter against
the objections of the appearances police.
Here's a guy who inspired a state law last
year that affirms homeowners' right to fly a flag without being threatened
with $100-a-day-fines from busybodies on the local board.
A guy feted by Gov. Jeb Bush, who marked
Flag Day by hoisting Old Glory on Andres's flagpole. A guy hailed as a
hero in this year's opening-day session of the state House of Representatives,
where he led the members in the Pledge of Allegiance before going to lunch
as a personal guest of House Speaker Johnnie Byrd.
Despite all that, the Indian Creek Phase
3B Homeowners Association might still take his house away.
On Friday, Chief Palm Beach County Circuit
Judge Edward Fine ruled the association can force Andres into a foreclosure
sale to collect legal fees that have accumulated in the three-year battle.
You'd have thought his troubles would have
ended in July, when Andres, a 66-year-old former Marine, won a temporary
injunction that allows him to legally fly his flag.
But before that ruling, Andres accumulated
$7,400 in senseless fines. And unless Andres prevails on appeal, he's on
the hook for paying that.
In addition, the association filed a $21,000
lien against the Andres home to pay its legal fees.
Fine ruled Friday that the association
may go forward with a foreclosure to collect.
The judge's decision makes hash of the
new state law that was supposed to come to Andres' rescue.
As Jeb Bush said in a letter to Andres
last May: "The intent behind this law was specifically to remedy situations
such as yours. The bill is retroactive, in effect to provide as much assistance
for you, and other homeowners facing similar difficulties, as possible."
And so -- while millions of Americans show
their support for embattled U.S. troops by displaying the red, white and
blue -- a retired electrician who has flown the flag for 42 years is plagued
by a ridiculous case that won't go away.
Says Barry Silver, Andres' attorney, "For
the association to continue this action against him, and seek to throw
a Marine into the street and take his life savings, is just infuriating."
Then again, isn't pettiness, a lack of
proportion and the hassling of citizens just what homeowners associations
are for? Don't they exist to give people small positions of power from
which they can make other people miserable?
As Silver -- who has represented far more
environmentalists and abortion-rights proponents than ex-Marines -- noted:
"Some of my contentious, vicious cases involve homeowners associations."
This case is particularly inane. Andres
was a member of this very homeowners association board when he erected
his flagpole. No one complained.
Then a new board came in and told him to
take it down, claiming he didn't have permission, Andres and Silver said.
The association claimed in court that it
has no quarrel with the flag itself, just how it's displayed; it's supposed
to be flown only from wire brackets attached to the home.
Andres counters that no bylaws spell that
out. And if he tried that way, the flag would disgracefully droop into
Steven Selz, the association's attorney,
couldn't be reached for comment. In a letter to Silver, he gave a reason
for continuing the fight: if Andres wins, the association will have to
pay his legal fees, which exceed $40,000.
Andres isn't backing down, either. "I've
been in the Marine Corps, I've been a good Boy Scout, a volunteer fireman
and I'm a thickheaded Irishman," he said Monday.
He says he'll go to the highest court,
if need be, to defend his rights of free speech.
"It was on my property, it was an expression
of my feelings, and, brother, let me tell you," he said, "I'm keeping it
up -- and as long as I can breathe, it's going to fly."