Not so neighborly: Collier passes 'false witness' ordinance to deter fake complaints

— Collier County officials this week found another way to augment a dwindling budget while cutting back neighbor-on-neighbor complaints.

Effective within the next few weeks, or as soon as the Florida Department of State signs off on it, there will be monetary fines for bearing false witness against a neighbor.

The first civil fine would cost $500. The second, $1,000, and the caller will be placed on a “Do Not Respond” list for future non-emergency reports to the county for a period of one year from the second report.

Commissioners passed the ordinance Tuesday on the summary agenda with no discussion or public comment.

Assistant County Attorney Scott Teach drafted the ordinance in cooperation with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, but all of the money may not go to Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, Teach said.

Depending on the false complaint, the money could go to Code Enforcement, Domestic Animals Services or the Sheriff’s Office.

Teach said the new law was brought forward after it was requested by East Naples resident Michael Conway.

At the Feb. 24 meeting, Conway said there must be a remedy to harassing and unwarranted calls made by one resident against another.

Wednesday, Conway said he was extremely pleased that the ordinance had passed. He said he’d been the subject of numerous nuisance calls by neighbor Kenny Thompson.

Conway, 62, moved into his Becca Avenue home on Nov. 11, 2007, and four days later the calls started.

“He made 33 calls to the Sheriff’s Office in one month,” Conway said of Thompson. That doesn’t include Thompson’s calls to Code Enforcement, Waste Management and Domestic Animal Services.

Thompson called DAS on Conway to report his barking dog.

“I don’t have a dog,” Conway said Wednesday.

Once, Thompson accused Conway of chasing him down the street with a machete.

“Look, I don’t want to cause him any trouble. I just want to be left alone,” Conway said Wednesday.

Thompson could not immediately be reached for comment.

“I wish him no harm,” Conway said, however, he did file a civil injunction against Thompson.

The first court date is Aug. 5, Conway said.

Wednesday, Teach said it was Conway’s sad situation that really provoked drafting and passage of the ordinance.

The ordinance states that false reporting of violations unreasonably diverts vital and critical public resources, and prevents public officers and law enforcement officers from efficiently and effectively enforcing the law.

People so cited can appeal the fine to the Special Magistrate.

The ordinance can be viewed at http://apps2.colliergov.net/Common/docs/Agendas/Complete/07-28-09/CoverSheet.pdf, item 17i.

Workers in Clerk of Court Dwight Brock’s office said they have not yet determined how the fines will be paid, who will be responsible for collecting them, and how they will channel the money to the correct department.

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