tampabay.com

Rule waived so flags can wave

A condo association cancels a fine for flying Old Glory at a unit.

By MICHAEL A. MOHAMMED
Published May 30, 2007


TAMPA - Although his condo complex has strict rules against decorations, Brendan Davis figured he could put up a small American flag outside his unit door.

After all, who would object to a flag on Memorial Day?

Apparently, a condominium security guard.

A guard at the ParkCrest Harbour Island condominiums found the small flag stuck in a light fixture and warned, then later fined, Davis for violating complex rules - an act condominium officials now acknowledge was a mistake.

After security guard Albert Gonzalez took down the flag, Davis put it back up, condo association officials said. The guard handed him a fine.

Davis put it up a third time and left. An hour later, he found the little flag on the ground, its wooden stick broken in two.

"This is America, we are at war, and it is Memorial Day," Davis wrote in an e-mail to Bay News 9. "What is going on?"

Davis served with the Army National Guard, and his roommate's father was a World War II prisoner of war.

"I woke up this morning and watched the Memorial Day services and reflected on my brothers who have died," wrote Davis, who couldn't be reached by the Times. "My roommate hung a flag outside our door to honor her father and all other soldiers."

The security guard didn't know, however, that Florida statutes guarantee residents the right to display an American flag, said ParkCrest Harbour Island Condominium Association president Jim Pyburn.

"That was a misunderstanding, and we apologize for that," Pyburn said, adding that he canceled the $35 fine against Davis.

He added that Gonzalez, a 17-year Army veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom, said he thought the flag could have been a fire hazard since Davis stuck it alongside a hot bulb.

The officer "just thought that he was doing his job" and didn't know how the flag ended up broken on the floor, Pyburn said.

Pyburn, who took over as board president in October, explained that the ParkCrest developer drafted the complex's strict bylaws when the building opened in March 2005.

In December many residents complained of being fined for putting holiday decorations on their doors or balconies. "There are a number of these rules that ... we don't agree with," Pyburn said, but changing them takes an affirmative vote from 224 of 336 units.

Information from Times files contributed to this report. Michael A. Mohammed can be reached at mmohammed@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3404.