'A thorn in our side'

Marie Havenga • Apr 9, 2019 at 7:00 AM

SPRING LAKE — Not all has been as it seemed on Facebook for the Village of Spring Lake.

Officials say an “imposter” put up a fake page on Facebook, pretending to be speaking for the village government. 

However, with the help of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, the culprit has been caught.

Spring Lake operates the “Spring Lake Village” and “VisitSpringLakeMI” Facebook pages. The fake one was called “Village of Spring Lake,” according to Village Downtown Development Authority Director Angela Stanford-Butler.

“They took our logo and they took the opening picture off our website,” Stanford-Butler said. “They call themselves a government organization. That is not us.”

The page has called Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a derogatory name, posted politically charged messages and spread false information.

Stanford-Butler said the Facebook hoax has cost staff a lot of time and stress. She and two other staff members monitored the fake page, then sent messages to people who left comments to let them know it is not the official village page.

“It took time out of my day,” Stanford-Butler said. “We've had people on there say, 'I'll never spend another dime in Spring Lake.' I go on (Facebook) Messenger and tell them it's not us and how to report it. It's been a thorn in our side.”

But the fake poster was recently found out.

“The administrator was promoting an event that Long Road Distillery was having at Stan's (Bar),” Stanford-Butler said. “Of course, he went to the event and couldn't stop talking about his page. Enough people at Stan's knew about the fake page that they started getting in touch with (Village Manager Chris Burns) to let her know who he was.

“We are not interested in calling him out by name,” she added.

Stanford-Butler said the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office told him to take the site down.

“(He) immediately took down our logo and image, and added 'satire' to the name of the page,” Stanford-Butler said. “ His followers seem to be devastated by the unfairness of it all, but given time, we're hoping that they'll all experience a full recovery.”

Unfortunately, Stanford-Butler said traffic to the site increased during its existence.

“It started out with six people, then eight, then went up to 600, then 800,” she said.

Stanford-Butler said village officials were concerned about reputation damage.

“The fear is that people believe it's real and are going to hold it against our community and our businesses and think lesser of us,” she said. “The site says things like, 'No more people from Grand Rapids allowed,’ and it bashes other communities. That stresses us out to no end. It's so obnoxious.”

Stanford-Butler said she's glad the nightmare is over.

“Taking time to smooth out every feather his site ruffled was a big waste of our time,” she said.

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