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The Villages
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Residents applaud official’s idea for ending anonymous complaint game

Residents are applauding an official’s idea for ending the anonymous complaint game in The Villages.

Community Development District 4 Supervisor Cary Sternberg this past week introduced an idea that would force those complaining about deed restriction violations to provide their name and offer some legitimacy to their complaint. Sternberg has suggested that the complainer could remain anonymous, but would have to make the complaint in person, show a Villages ID and prove they live in the district, village or on the street of the violation.

“I think that Cary Sternberg’s recommendation should be adopted throughout The Villages. Even though an anonymous complainer’s name could be obtained, it would take a formal public information filing to get it. It is only reasonable for the complainer to prove that they own property and can only complain about properties within their own village,” said Jim Christie of the Village of Caroline.

He said there must be changes to the current system of anonymous complaints, which many people believe have been weaponized as vengeful attacks in which homeowners are blindsided. Or in the case of the fabled two ladies in a golf cart with a clipboard, out for an afternoon of fun.

“People walking, or driving, through neighborhoods with clipboards looking for violations should be held to a validity accountability before complaints are accepted,” Christie said.

Mike McGrothers also has high praise for Sternberg’s innovative idea.

“The process Cary has laid out looks like a perfect one. This anonymous process has totally gotten out of control. The next best thing would be for the district to patrol their neighborhoods and report any violations,” he said.

Most residents can cite examples of the damage done to neighborhoods by anonymous complainers.

“We live in Pine Hills on a cul de sac and a neighbor had to remove a golfer statue that we called ‘Charlie’ because someone complained after he was there for five years,” said Susan Hansen. “If they complain they should live on your street and not be anonymous. This is making everyone question their neighbors when it probably wasn’t your neighbor.”

Jackie Elliott of the Village of St. James said Sternberg’s idea would take the power of the phone and the fictitious email address away from the trolls.

“This puts more ‘work’ on the troll,” she said.

Carol Slezak agrees with the idea of making the complainer reveal himself to ensure legitimacy, but from there the identity should be withheld.

“Now that anyone in Florida can carry a gun, I wouldn’t feel safe reporting anything for fear of getting shot,” she said.

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