Monday, November 12, 2012

SkyPoint resident facing $100 fine for holding up a protest sign during the RNC

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 at 3:44 PM

The view from Ashley Drive of SkyPoint Condominiums
  • The view of SkyPoint Condominiums from Ashley Drive
As a demonstration marched down Tampa Street during the Republican Convention in late August, SkyPoint resident Blannie Whelan ran up to the parking garage level walls on the sixth floor of the illustrious downtown condo to show her solidarity, holding a sign that read, "Protect People, Not Corporations."

A healthy exercise of the First Amendment you might say, something the Tampa Police Department was insistent would be allowed to flourish during the four-day political event.

But perhaps Whelan should have gone outside to hold up the sign, because the SkyPoint board of directors voted to fine her $100 for her action.

The condo association's Violations Committee will give her one more chance to defend herself this Thursday evening at 6 p.m., but Wheelan said she knows that the board won't reassess its original fine.

Whelan received a letter last week from Mike Konefal, the general manager at SkyPoint. He accused her action of "jeopardizing the safety of the building as protestors may have viewed the building as a target for negative action."

As a result, he concluded that Whelan violated 18.7 of SkyPoint's "Declaration," which states that "No nuisances shall be allowed on the condominium Property, nor shall any use or practice be allowed which is a source of annoyance to the residents or occupants of Units or which interferes with the peaceful possession or proper use of the condominium Property by its residents or occupants."

However, Florida's Supreme Court has not yet addressed the issue.

Whelan told CL that when she went before the board in October, she questioned how she could have put the building's occupants in danger when she was holding a sign that was sympathetic to the protesters cause, adding, "there were more police officers than demonstrators," which anyone who observed protests in Tampa during the RNC can readily attest to.

But her complaint fell on deaf ears.

"Basically the management is very right-wing," Whelan said, alleging that she was informed by SkyPoint staff that management did not fancy her decision to conduct two Occupy Tampa women's group meetings in her condo last year when Occupy was congregating nightly in Curtis Hixon Park.

"This is my home. I pay my association dues and my mortgage, and it's my home," she emphasized.

This past summer, New Jersey's Supreme Court sided with Wasim Khan, who was fined for putting campaign signs in his window in violation of his condominium's rules.

In Mazdabrook Commons Homeowners' Ass'n. v. Khan, the Supreme Court concluded that Khan's signs interfered minimally with the condo's property or common areas and noted that Mazdabrook didn't offer "alternative means of political communication."

"Political signs advancing a resident's candidacy are not incompatible with a private development; rather, they are a small but important part of the fabric of our society," the court wrote. "On balance, the importance of Khan's right to promote his candidacy for office, and the relatively minor interference his conduct posed to private property, outweigh Mazdabrook’s interests."

CL contacted Konefal for comment, but did not hear back from him. If and when he contacts us, we will update this blog post.

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