Connecticut Woman May Win Battle for Old Glory

The Connecticut condominium association that asked the mother of a National Guardsman to remove her flags and flagpole will allow the woman to keep Old Glory flying if she moves her flagpole from the center of her lawn, learned Wednesday.

Kevin Carson, president of the Stoughton Ridge Condominium Association, told that the five-member board would allow Teresa Richard to keep her American flag and Blue Star Mothers of America flag flying outside of her condo, provided she moves the flagpole to a stony area near her driveway.

"We're not hard-nosed; we were trying to work with her," Carson said. "And it's not about patriotism; it's only about where you put the flagpole."

Condo rules for this 60-unit complex north of Hartford, Conn., stipulate that flags can only be flown from front entries, wood trim or deck railings. The rule was passed in 2004 after two residents — Carson included — erected flagpoles near their driveways. Those poles were grandfathered into the rules.

"Being a condo, you can't have people just putting flagpoles up willy-nilly about the property," Carson said. "It interferes with the mowing of the lawn, it's all contractual work and so forth, and there are underground utilities feeding the condos."

Richard, who is an association board member, received a letter from the group in August 2005 asking her to remove her flags and flagpole. She had raised the flags to honor her son, Cpl. Tony Donihee, now serving in Afghanistan with the Connecticut National Guard.

"I had a flood of mixed emotions," Richard told "FOX & Friends" Wednesday. "No. 1: I thought they've got to be kidding, it's an American flag and at first, I thought this isn't real."

The initial flags, Carson said, were so big they were nearly touching the ground, contrary to customary rules of respect for the Stars and Stripes.

In response to the condo association, Richard downsized her flags last month with the help of local veterans.

"The VFW in town purchased a new American flag at a smaller size," she said.

But the showdown with the condo association continued.

The association sent her a letter that stated she would have to remove her flags and her flagpole after Labor Day weekend, a date chosen to coincide with Richard's promise to her son to keep the flags up for a year. After that date, she would be subjected to a $25 fine per day for each flag.

News of the "ban" of the flags incensed veterans groups, including the East Windsor Veterans Commission.

"I think that's perfectly logical for anyone that wants to do this — whether someone in your family is a veteran or in the service or not — this is your decision," Warren Wenz, chairman of the commission, told Tuesday. "It should not be the decision of somebody else to decide that you can't fly a flag but someone down the street can."

Last year, President Bush signed the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which prohibits condo associations from enforcing policies "that would restrict or
prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership
interest or a right to exclusive possession or use."

But that same law states that the act would not override "any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium association."

Carson said that the issue all along has been the flagpole and not the display of the flag.

"The issue is not the flags; it was never the flags," Carson said. "It's the flagpole in the middle of the lawn."

Carson said they'll continue to work with Richard until the flagpole issue is resolved and that the condo owner would not be subjected to any fines for displaying the flag.

Richard said the flag outside her kitchen window will continue to be a symbol of her son fighting overseas.

"I get up, I make my coffee in the morning, I look out the window, and that's my Tony," she said.
"That's a connection to Tony."