Woman Faces Fine for Supporting Troops

ByABC News

WESTCHASE, Fla., March 10, 2006 — -- When Stacey Kelley's husband, Army Pvt. David Kelley who is serving in Iraq, sent her a cardboard sign expressing support for U.S. troops overseas, she put it up in the yard of her suburban Tampa, Fla., home.

Kelley, 24, never imagined that it would raise controversy, or that she would be threatened with a $100-a-day fine if she refused to take it down.

"I've been in tears. I couldn't believe that they wanted me to take it down," she said.

The Westchase Homeowners Association threatened her with the $100 a day for up to 10 days because the sign is in violation of association rules, but Kelley said she was ready to pay.

"If I have to pay, I'll pay the fines. My husband says the same thing," she said. "If we have to pay them, we'll pay them. If they're gonna try to give us more than a thousand-dollar fine, there's enough people out there that are willing to help me out."

It was an issue that caused a conflict for the association's president, who is also an Army reservist. Daryl Manning, an Iraq War veteran, said he hoped that some compromise could be worked out.

"I've been there. I know right where her husband is. I've been in [the] country. I was over there for 20 months," he said.

A compromise was reached Thursday night, but it doesn't mean Kelley won't be facing a fine -- just one a lot lower than the amount originally threatened. Instead, the seven-member board voted to impose just a $1-per-day penalty for as long as the sign stays up.

The fine will eventually go up if Kelley doesn't take the sign down, Manning said.

"There's a violation to have any sign in any homeowner's yard, regardless of what it says," Manning said.

Manning said the association's rules about signs, which only allow "For Sale" or "For Lease" signs, were in place to keep the community clean and keep the peace.

"The problem could arise where it could be a neighbor across the street or across the road that says, 'Bring the troops home. Get out of the theater. Cut and run.' What happens when that occurs? So we cannot make exceptions in this case," he said.

"All my neighbors told me this morning they're willing to go out and buy signs today and start putting them in everyone's yard because that's how it should be," Kelley said on Thursday.

Some neighbors said they didn't agree with the homeowners association's objection to Kelley's sign, despite the community rules.

"Of course, they say that there are rules, but in this particular case I think we should overlook that particular rule and give her the moral support," resident Ed Drost said.

"Gee whiz, the sign says, 'Support our troops.' OK?" said Merv Shiner, another neighbor.

ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.