The 2018-2019 battle between 80-something resident Millie Francis and Bradenton Tropical Palms manager Janet Nowakowski and others become national news over the outdoor religious display on the exterior of the resident owned community’s (ROC) shareholder’s home.
After attorneys for Bradenton Tropical Palms (BTP) 55 plus community threatened legal action, the state was engaged and the media spotlight glared brightly for months. The matter was finally settled quietly. An apparent non-disclosure agreement (NDA) was signed, as the parities did not disclose the details. But the religious artwork remained. Francis completed the project as she had originally proposed.
The video from a local ABC affiliate above and the one below from the Bradenton Herald both summarizes the heated controversy.
The comment from now retired Fair Housing Attorney Nadeen Green, J.D., lays out legal issues.
After the matter was supposedly resolved, Nowakowski allegedly told Francis in a menacing manner that “This isn’t over.” Indeed, minor ‘infractions’ of rules would periodically be cited by the community’s manager against the heart-patient Francis, supposedly on matters that others in the same community did likewise, but without consequences. Those, Francis believed, were examples of harassment.
The COVID19 Driven Religious Wrinkle
What has re-ignited a new and different wrinkle on the religious liberty issues is the coronavirus outbreak.
As the video above explained, Francis said that God inspired her to have the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe be placed on the front end of her pre-HUD Code mobile home. This time the octogenarian and devoted Catholic felt the impulse from above to pray the rosary and other devotional prayers outdoors and with her radio tuned to a local affiliate of Relevant Radio.
In response, Nowakowski issued a “Friendly Reminder” letter that was provided to MHProNews by Francis, a widower. The letter, found as a download at this link here, read in part “Your neighbor asked you to discontinue playing the radio and your response was to tell him that he did not believe in god and you shut the door in his face an[d] continued to play the radio.”
That, Francis alleged, was a “lie.”
While Francis was on the phone with MHProNews explaining her side of the issue, Nowakowski appeared at her residence. This writer asked to have her put on the phone, to get her side of the story. After identifying myself and stating I was with MHProNews, Nowakowski said “I have nothing to say to you,” and hung up.
Follow up messages to Nowakowski and the BTP community’s attorneys – Bryan Levine, Jessica Knox – have been unanswered. A local reporter for the Bradenton Herald who was family with the dynamics of the neighbors in questions, sounded off, as reported in the more detailed report linked below.
Francis told MHProNews that others played their radios in a similar fashion to her without consequences. The difference? The others were listening to secular programing, while she was listening to religious programming.
The BTP ROC shareholder further stated that Mike Flynn, one of the residents who purportedly complained, lived about a block away. Francis asserted that a neighbor across the street – who at times prayed with her – could not hear her radio from that distance, so it was unlikely that Flynn could from his residence.
From Francis’ vantagepoint, she believes that the world must turn to God in prayer and that this COVID19 outbreak is a call to prayer. More details are found in the report linked above and here.
The issue is a vexing one on several levels from the manufactured home industry’s perspective, because it undermines some of the claims of the benefits of resident owned community (ROC) living. If a manager purportedly has a beef with a resident, this case illustrates how a manager can make life uncomfortable for that person.
Because ROCs fill a valuable role, this type of story that the BTP controversy raises is not the example that ROC advocates should want floating around. The BTP property itself has a rich and colorful history, as the illustrations and quotes from their website reflects.
Why would the BTP board of directors allow them to risk their ROC’s image by allowing their manager to purportedly target a devout, Catholic, heart-patient who is practicing her faith on her own homesite?
That noted, Francis has stressed her desire that people pray during this COVID19 crisis and beyond. She’s not marketing herself. Rather, Francis is selling the belief that people need to become closer to God through prayer during this pandemic – and beyond.
MHProNews will monitor the Nowakowski-Francis religious liberty scenario and report as warranted.
That’s a wrap on this installment of manufactured home “Industry News Tips and Views Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
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