June 24, 2011 -- Your flag is fine; it's your pole that has to go: That's the message being given Vietnam veteran Fred Quigley by his homeowners' association.
Quigley, 77, who lives in the Villas at Taramina near Macedonia, Ohio, served with honor as a U.S. Army chaplain in Korea and in Vietnam. He's had bullets nip his ear, he says, and has had enemy rockets (duds, luckily) land right at his feet. But the kind of fire he's under now, he says is unlike any he's had to face before. "I'm in emotional distress," he says. "My eyes are watering."
His troubles started a year ago when he moved into this retirement community and erected a standard 15-foot tall flagpole from which to fly a standard U.S. flag, 3 feet by 5 feet. The pole put him at odds with home association rules and with association manager Joseph Migliorini.
Migliorini says it's fine for Quigley to fly his flag--but not from a pole. To be in compliance with association rules, he says, Quigley and every other owner must use a short stanchion attached directly to the house.
What's the thinking behind the rule? A pole creates an obstruction. "Landscapers have to work around it," Magliorini says. Furthermore, he says federal standards of flag etiquette require that unless the displayer of the flag takes it down at night, it must be illuminated. "That creates a need for electricity to be run out to the pole."
Around the U.S. some 60 million people live in--and have to abide by the rules of--homeowners' associations, which decree everything from what color you can paint your house to how often your trash gets picked up and where you can park your car. Owners who find the rules too constraining sometimes sue. Minor disputes have snowballed to the point where homes are foreclosed on by associations or owners have been sent to jail for what started out as minor infractions. In North Carolina, an owner facing eviction for having built an unapproved white picket fence set fire to his home in protest and was killed in the blaze.
Quigley's attorney, Gerald Patronite, says that the Ohio law states categorically that is contrary to public policy to restrict the display of the U.S. flag, and that no private association can restrict such display in any way. Migliorini insists that the Code of Federal Regulations is on the side of the association and gives him the authority to determine what kind of display is appropriate. Though he has drafted a lawsuit, it hasn't yet been filed.
Why not? Quigley says it's because of the outpouring of popular support he's received since this flap became public. The dispute has gotten coverage not just nationally but internationally. He's gotten phone calls of support from Utah, New York, Florida and Washington State. More than 50 vets from the American Legion came by his property to conduct a ceremonial flag-raising. And Roaring Thunder, a motorcycle group that displays Old Glory, recently roared through to give Quigley a thumb-up.
Asked how far he's prepared to take his fight, Quigley says, "I'm retired. I'm living on a fixed income. But I'll fight this to the limit of my resources."
Mean things have been said, he says, as hostilities have escalated.
"I've been harassed. My good name has been defamed." He feels strongly that his service in the military and his rights as a property owner put him in the right: "I've been in action. I've put myself on the line. With the sacrifices I've earned the right to fly my flag and be proud of it. On my pole. In my yard."
As for the flap? "At the age of 77, I really don't need this."