In the March 13-14 Weekend print edition of the Herald, the editorial board made its endorsements for the April 6 City Council elections, naming incumbent Melissa Youssef, Olivier Bosmans and Seth Furtney as our choices.
Since then a controversy has erupted about Furtney’s past criminal history and whether or not his behavior constitutes reason to reject him as a candidate. Individuals have called on the Herald’s editorial board to withdraw its endorsement.
After serious consideration, the board has decided to stand by its endorsement of Furtney. We hope you will take the time to read about why we have done so.
For those who do not know the background: In 2007, Jerry “Jake” Dalla fenced some of his private property near Horse Gulch in order to convert the land to agricultural use and run cattle on it. His fence blocked access to a trail on Raider Ridge that Furtney, then 41, enjoyed. Furtney removed fence posts, survey markers and fence line from Dalla’s property, apparently on several occasions. When video surveillance caught Furtney in the act, he was charged with felony criminal mischief and a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing.
Furtney ultimately apologized to Dalla, pled guilty to the charges, spent two nights in jail, paid a $31,470 fine and completed probation successfully so that the felony charge did not remain on his record.
The Herald’s editorial board was unaware of Furtney’s history at the time we made our endorsement. Some of the board did not live in the area in 2007; others later recalled the incident but did not recall Furtney’s name in association with it. The newspaper’s easily accessed archives date only to 2009.
Cutting fence is understood to be a serious crime by any person who lives or has lived in the rural West, dating to the Fence-Cutting Wars, which reached Colorado in the 1880s. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that ranchers and farmers feel their land to be an extension of themselves, so powerful is their connection to it. Cutting fence is an afront akin to killing a beloved pet or livestock – and may in fact lead to the loss of livestock.
And most people, wherever they live, appreciate private property rights as fundamental to our democracy.
Furtney’s behavior was not just wrong, but immature and disrespectful. And, frankly, stupid. People have been shot for less.
Why didn’t he come clean at the beginning of his campaign? We’re not sure. He should have known better; in this digital age, skeletons leap from closets and dirty laundry can be smelled a mile away.
Still, Furtney has not re-offended since 2007. He is, by all reports, an upstanding member of the community who has contributed to its betterment in many ways. His skill set would make him a valuable member of the City Council.
Yet our decision comes down not to just the facts, but also humility and humanity.
Our form of government allows for the punishment of crimes, but also affords reconciliation to those who make reparations through admission of guilt, fines, imprisonment and probationary/parole periods. Once an individual has completed reparations, society allows their return, participation and even forgiveness.
Our decision to leave our endorsement intact is in fact an endorsement of humanity and the belief that people can earn a second chance and get it. We would be participating not in the healing of society but in the hatred evinced by today’s “cancel culture” were we to withdraw our endorsement of Furtney.
If he is elected, will we scrutinize his behavior more carefully than that of other council members? Probably. Will we watch for signs of hubris, dishonesty and disrespect? You bet. And we will call him out on those things, should they occur.
Let’s give Seth Furtney a chance to prove his commitment to the community through service on the City Council.