It was all a misunderstanding.
That's how the homeowners association of an Idaho condominium complex is describing a local American flag controversy that garnered national attention. Now, the association has admitted it could have handled the situation better and has dropped its opposition to residents flying American flags.
Last week, the HOA at Copper Ranch Condominiums in Hailey, ID told Steve and Robin Perfect that flying an American flag violated an association rule prohibiting items in "common areas."
But after fully investigating the situation, and receiving calls and e-mails from angry and concerned people nationwide, the HOA apologized to the Perfects on Friday, and told them they can fly an American flag in honor of their deployed son Sgt. Edward Nadler.
"It was a misunderstanding about what what was hanging," Copper Ranch HOA board member J. Edward Smith told The Blaze, adding that the group was also confused about where the flag was hanging. "Never was the intent to deny the flying of the American flag."
While HOA rules generally prohibit flag and banner flying, and even window stickers and "for sale" signs, American flags like the Perfect's have always been allowed, he said.
So what prompted the controversy?
Smith said it started when the condominium's California-based office (Lido Equities) received a complaint from one of the Perfect's neighbors. The neighbor, he explained, led the office to believe the Perfects were displaying excessive flags and banners, even pro-war messages, in the "common area." That prompted an initial call to the Perfects, when a representative reportedly told the couple their display appeared to be "supporting the war." Smith contended the representative was only quoting the neighbor's complaint.
The situation escalated when the Perfects refused to remove the flag (citing the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act) and property manger Brian Emerick stepped in to enforce the HOA's "common area" rule.
"It’s unfortunate it involves the American flag,” Emerick told The Blaze last week, “but from the HOA‘s perspective it’s not about the flag, it’s about the rules.” Smith defended Emerick, saying he was only enforcing the will of the HOA.
But there was one problem: the information Emerick and the board based their actions on was incorrect.
Not only was the Perfect's flag not excessive or offensive, but it was also not in "common area." According to Smith, there's a difference between "common area" and "limited common area." The former, which the neighbor alleged, includes areas such as the street or the roof. The latter includes the area outside a residents door, or "the area where [the Perfects] have their flag."
"It's perfectly fine," Smith said of the Perfect's flag and location.
Yet neither Smith (who lives in California), Emerick (who doesn't live on site), or any other board member went to the Perfects to investigate the neighbor's claims. That, Smith admitted, was a mistake.
"We definitely should have [investigated]," he said. "This was not handled right from the beginning. Absolutely it wasn't." He believes information could have been relayed better, and more accurately, to the HOA, and told Emerick that everyone could have been "more diligent in looking at what was actually there."
"We take responsibility for that," he added, but made it clear that the HOA's intent was never to disgrace the American flag.
The HOA realized the mistake after seeing pictures of the Perfect's flag and its location. On Friday, then, Smith called the Perfects, apologized, and told them their flag was not violating any policy and they should display it proudly.
"It is a very patriotic little town," Smith said. "We are proud Americans and we're gladly allowing them to display their flag."
With that now clear, the Perfects are at ease. "This takes a lot of stress off of us, and our son, especially at this time," Robin said in an e-mail to The Blaze.
"I cannot express my gratitude enough to everybody for their support," she said later during a phone call. "I'm speechless at the overwhelming support we have received."
That support included a letter from a stranger whose son is also deployed in Iraq. Among other things, the fellow mother's message was clear: Thank you for defending the flag.
"My whole family can feel at peace now knowing that our son can continue on his mission without having the added stress or worry of what's going on over here," she explained, and added that Smith "was very sincere and very apologetic."
Her soldier son "Eddie" also had some sincere words for her: