Win-win proposal in flagpole case
Article Courtesy of South Florida Sun-Sentinel
John Graybill
Boca Raton
April 6, 2003

A golden opportunity awaits the Indian Creek Phase 3B Homeowners Association if they have the wisdom to seize it. Indian Creek is threatening to evict George Andres and seize his house in order to pay their legal bills after Andres won a protracted legal battle to fly a flag on a pole in front of his townhouse.

If that occurs, everyone will be a loser. Mr. Andres will have lost his house and Indian Creek will have lost any respect anyone may have had for them. How can anyone evict a nice man who is just being patriotic? And does the attorney for Indian Creek really want to get paid knowing a nice man had to be evicted from his house in order to pay him? I hope not. But it is also understandable why Indian Creek wishes to be reimbursed for its legal expenses. 

The golden opportunity is this: Indian Creek should cease all legal activities against Mr. Andres and allow him to remain in his house. The community of Indian Creek should engage in fund-raising activities that pay in full the legal bills of both parties. Given the publicity and emotion surrounding this battle, raising funds should be a piece of cake. If money is left over, throw an Indian Creek block party and have some fun. Everyone will come away a winner and maybe old wounds will begin to heal. 

Winning the flagpole battle but losing the war
Article Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel
By Howard Goodman
April 1, 2003

Is there any force more powerful than a homeowners association? 

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 his bushes. 

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." 

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