Brookfield, Wis., Condominium Board Offers to Erect A Flag
Article Courtesy of HOOVER'S online

Aug. 27--TOWN OF BROOKFIELD, Wis.--Smarting over bad publicity surrounding its efforts to remove U.S. flags from condo mailboxes, the Brookfield Lake Condominiums association is proposing to erect a single "appropriate flag" on its property to represent all 98 units. 
But "as part of this global solution," a letter from the association board says the dozen flags erected along mailboxes would have to be removed by World War II veteran David Toy, who installed them in the wave of patriotism after the Sept. 11 attacks. 

"It is hoped that this would be an all encompassing solution to the controversy surrounding the flag . . . Unlike the flags at the mailboxes, it is the board's intent to see that the flag is cared for in the manner prescribed by executive order of the United States," said the letter, sent to Brookfield Lake condo owners. 

But Toy, 78, who provided a copy of the letter, said Monday that he doesn't like the proposed solution because it takes away his right to display the United States flag where he wants to. He maintains that the mailbox area is part of his and other owners' private area. 

Condo officials disagree. In July -- 10 months after Toy and his neighbors first flew flags above mailboxes throughout the subdivision -- the condo association ordered that all the flags be removed because they violated condo rules. 

Residents don't own the mailboxes and must obtain permission from the condo association before placing anything on the exterior or commonly owned areas of their condo complex. Condo officials also said Toy damaged the mailbox structure by drilling holes in the wood so he could attach the flags. 

The condo association will meet at 7 tonight to discuss the board's proposal. 

Toy plans to attend in the uniform he wore when he fought during World War II. Toy, a Wauwatosa dentist, came to the United States from China as an infant and later became a citizen. 

"I'm just trying to do something I feel I have to do to support our troops overseas," Toy said of flying the flags. "I tried to sign up for the service on September 12, but they rejected me because of my age. I would sign up as a dentist. 

"So, what can I do? How can I fight terror? How can I show sympathy for the people who died? One feels so impotent to do anything." 

So the mailbox flags are "my way of showing my feelings, my patriotism," Toy said. 

In its letter, the condo board commends Toy for his World War II service. But it says: "However, service during World War II does not and should not allow him to be the sole decider of where and how flags on the property should be posted." 

Association board secretary Dorothy Petro declined on Monday to discuss details of the board's proposal. She said there would be "no comments until after the meeting." 

"Our solution would have to be approved by our association," Petro said. "I do not want to give out any other information until it is approved by the association." 

The flag flap drew attention earlier this month, and the controversy prompted Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) to promise he would introduce legislation in January that would bar condo and homeowner associations from banning the display of the Stars and Stripes. 

Several other states, including California, already have passed similar law. 

Toy said a law like California's would be fine with him. "Something should be done so these entities can't dictate where you put your flag," he said. 

Condo officials continue to bristle that the focus has been on Old Glory. 

"From the board's perspective, this has never been a 'flag' issue, but rather an issue where the board could not, without breaching its fiduciary duties, allow unit owners to drill holes in the common element wherever and whenever they wanted, regardless of how appropriate a particular unit owner may consider the activity," the board's letter says. 

"In fact, as many of you know, the board has regularly approved the written requests of unit owners to display flags. In addition, for the first ten months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, the board allowed flags to be displayed in various locations in an effort to unify the association at a time when our country also was seeking unity," it says. 

"Unfortunately, when the board decided that the location and manner in which the U.S. flag was displayed needed to be at least somewhat regulated, Mr. David Toy turned what was to be a unifying gesture into a means to divide unit owners through the media." 

Although Toy could be fined by the association, the condo board for now said it would refrain from assessing fines. According to the letter, however, the board left open the door to assessing fines in the future should Toy fail to follow rules. 

The letter noted that Toy has been fined for rules violations in the past and he refused to pay fines for a number of years. Toy said the fines involved his children parking their cars in visitor spaces late at night in winter. 

Toy said the comments about him in the letter are "character assassination" and "retaliation" from condo officials who have "egg on their face" over the controversy. 

He said he was willing to pay for the damage to the mailbox structure, which consists of small holes he drilled into the wood. 

"I can buy a board for $5.98 at Home Depot," Toy said. "I doubt very much if the holes are bigger than the cracks in the wood that support these things." 

Flag flying not a condo freedom
Article Courtesy of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
   Association tells Brookfield veteran to remove banners from mailboxes
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.
Four states - Arizona, California, Florida and South Carolina - have passed laws prohibiting condominium and homeowners associations from banning or restricting residents from displaying the U.S. flag.

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."

What's Next
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 rules

" 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

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.

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 exterior.

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 the flag."

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 law.

"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," she said.

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."

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