Friday, September 25, 2020
82.5 F
The Villages

Former Villages sales reps reveal political pressure from top brass

Cynthia Hughes

Former sales representatives with The Villages in recent legal depositions detailed the political pressure exerted by top executives in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

Cynthia Hughes was deposed May 28 in the ongoing lawsuit The Villages is pursuing against two former top producers who quit to form their own real estate venture, KD Premier Realty.

Hughes worked in real estate in New York before moving to The Villages in 2004. The Buffalo, N.Y. native had an interview with Properties of The Villages on the day she and her husband closed on their house. In January 2005, she began working as an hourly guest coordinator and later that year signed an independent contractor agreement as she moved into a sales representative role. She left Properties of The Villages earlier this year to join former colleagues, Christopher Day and Jason Kranz, founders of KD Premier Realty.

The lengthy deposition given as part of the federal civil case offers an insight into the inner workings of Properties of The Villages.

In particular, Hughes revealed the pressure to support political candidates favored by The Villages, with campaign donations and their votes.

During the deposition, she was shown a 2012 letter from Gary and Renee Morse, soliciting contributions for the Mitt Romney campaign. The letter was mailed to her home.

Mitt Romney was in The Villages in 2012 when he won the Florida Primary.

Hughes said she was unsure of what she should do. She said it didn’t feel right.

“And I felt intimidated like I had to contribute. They’re sending this to you and they’re telling you to send it back to the executive office. So they know who is contributing and who is not. And I felt like I had to or my job might be in jeopardy. I just felt like I had to,” Hughes said in the deposition.

She said she never had an employer make such a request. Even with the Morse family’s well-known record for political activity, Hughes said she was surprised.

And there were other troubling incidents.

“They’ve had other people that were running for political positions in The Villages before and heavily promoted them,” Hughes said under oath.

“At sales meetings they’ve had people like (Villages Vice President for Community Relations) Gary Lester in there with pre-filled out forms telling us how they would like you to vote. Not that you should vote this way, but it would be great if you did vote this way so that The Villages could keep growing and you could still have your jobs and have a way to – have a way to support your families,” Hughes said.

Gov. Rick Scott and Gary Lester of The Villages cut the ribbon on the governor’s campaign office in 2014 in The Villages. Former state Rep. Marlene O’Toole holds the microphone.

The deposition, obtained this week by Villages-News.com, offered an insight into the process of guiding sales representatives to the ballot box at election time.

“It’s just like, you know, you come into a place of business and you’re pushing your political beliefs on the whole sales staff and having pre-filled out campaign voting ballots and tell you to pick one (up) in the hallway, off the desk in the hallway,” she said.

Nanette Elliott

In a June 3 deposition in the same case, Nanette Elliott, who joined Properties of The Villages in 2004 and later defected to KD Premier Realty, told a similar story.

“We would have meetings when Gary Lester would come in and talk to the group and they would have, The Villages had candidates that were – their thoughts and plans were favorable to The Villages, plans for going forward with development or whatever. A story was told to us about the one vote that made the difference of being able to go south of 466 back in 2003 or 2004,” she said.

More Headlines

13 more local COVID-19 fatalities as tri-county area reports 67 new cases

Thirteen more local residents have lost their battle with COVID-19 as the tri-county area reported 67 new cases of the virus Friday.

Sumter County renters and homeowners can apply online for COVID-19 assistance

Sumter County renters and homeowners can apply online for COVID-19 assistance. We've got the link where you can make the application.

Photos

Carolina Chickadee Near Lake Miona Regional Recreation Center

This Carolina chickadee was spotted near Lake Miona Regional Recreation Center. Thanks to Ron Clark for sharing!

Hot Air Balloons Sailing Over Lake Sumter

These hot air balloons were spotted sailing over Lake Sumter east of the Morse Boulevard bridge in The Village of Caroline. Thanks to Jim Strothman for sharing!

Bellowing Bald Eagle Near Nancy Lopez Country Club

Look at this bellowing bald eagle spotted near Nancy Lopez Country Club. Thanks to Ron Clark for sharing!

Letters to the Editor

The third generation ‘reimagining’ the vision

In a Letter to the Editor, a resident of the Village of Santo Domingo writes that the third generation of the Morse Family is “reimagining” the vision of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

Business

$28.7 million Lake Sumter Apartment Homes now open to renters

Lake Sumter Apartment Homes, a $28.7 million affordable housing community consisting of 158 apartment homes, is now open to renters.

Crime

Water Oaker arrested after police called to argument with neighbor

A Water Oaker was arrested after police were called to an argument with a neighbor.

Opinions

The Target Guys

Columnist Barry Evans checks in with Husbands United (a secret society) and the Target Guys.

Top Stories

Villages restauranteurs vow caution despite DeSantis greenlighting 100% capacity

Gov. Ron DeSantis has greenlighted restaurants and bars to begin operating at 100 percent capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but three Villages restauranteurs said Friday that caution will remain the name of the game in their eateries.

13 more local COVID-19 fatalities as tri-county area reports 67 new cases

Thirteen more local residents have lost their battle with COVID-19 as the tri-county area reported 67 new cases of the virus Friday.

Sumter County renters and homeowners can apply online for COVID-19 assistance

Sumter County renters and homeowners can apply online for COVID-19 assistance. We've got the link where you can make the application.

Letters to the Editor

The third generation ‘reimagining’ the vision

In a Letter to the Editor, a resident of the Village of Santo Domingo writes that the third generation of the Morse Family is “reimagining” the vision of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

Trump’s scheme to ignore popular vote a line you cannot cross

A Village of Poinciana resident, in a Letter to the Editor, argues that President Trump’s scheme to ignore the popular vote is a line that cannot be crossed.

No protection for damaged businesses

A Spruce Creek South resident wonders why business owners can’t sue after rioters damaged their livelihoods. Read his Letter to the Editor.

Crime

Water Oaker arrested after police called to argument with neighbor

A Water Oaker was arrested after police were called to an argument with a neighbor.

Woman who refused to exit vehicle arrested on DUI charge

A woman who repeatedly refused to exit her vehicle was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.

Underwear-clad Summerfield man jailed after smacking deputy with Bible

A Summerfield man who allegedly hit a Marion County sheriff’s deputy with a Bible and then defecated on himself was jailed Tuesday after telling deputies that God told him to enter his neighbor’s residence to free his juvenile daughter.