Former Campus Saftey Officer Furner Faces Reduced Charges

Former Campus Saftey Officer Furner Faces Reduced Charges

Harry Raymond

Following an April 2010 arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI) and leaving the scene of an accident, a Colgate Campus Safety and Hamilton Police Officer pled guilty to a lesser offense as part of an apparent plea deal with the local district attorney.

According to Madison County District Attorney Bill Gabor, on August 2, Daniel Furner, 38, pled guilty to driving while ability impaired (DWAI), a much less serious charge than the original DWI charge. Furner was fined $500 and had his driver’s license suspended for 90 days. Furner had also been charged with leaving the scene of a property damage accident, but Gabor said the DWAI “satisfied” that charge.

WSYR-Syracuse (Channel 9) had reported that, on the morning of April 30, Furner was arrested for driving while intoxicated after he crashed his 2005 Dodge pickup truck and fled the scene of the accident. According to the report, at about 4:47 a.m., Furner was driving southeast on Hamilton Street when he left the west side of the road, striking a tree. The police said he fled the scene of the accident and was found by a patrol car nearby. Hamilton Police, Colgate Campus Safety Officers, the Hamilton Fire Department and SOMAC assisted the New York State Police in responding to the incident. Furner was taken to Community Memorial Hospital with a fractured arm, broken nose and other facial injuries.

The Maroon-News recently obtained a photograph of Furner, taken on the night of his arrest, apparently drinking with a Colgate student. The student, who provided the photograph of Furner under the condition of anonymity, confirmed it was taken the night of Furner’s arrest. Furner had a reputation for aggressive enforcement of campus alcohol policies.

District Attorney Gabor explained to the Maroon-News that Furner’s charge was reduced from DWI misdemeanor (felony on a second offence) to a DWAI violation which he said is considered on a “case-by-case basis.” Gabor estimates that between “a third to 50 percent” of DWI defendants do not get their charges reduced.

“Obviously, I would not treat Mr. Furner harsher or give him extra consideration,” Gabor added. While Gabor would not disclose Furner’s blood alcohol content level the morning of his arrest, he said that it was below .18, which would have required a charge of aggravated DWI in

Madison County.

The Maroon-News has not been able to locate any statistics concerning plea arrangements for students or public safety officers charged with alcohol-related offenses.   

On August 22, the Maroon-News formally requested a copy of the incident’s arrest report, which is a publicly available document. Despite several follow-up calls, the Maroon-News has yet to receive the report from the New York State Central Record Bureau. Both the Hamilton Police and Hamilton Village Court declined to provide a copy.

Hamilton Police Chief Gary Mlasgar told the Maroon-News that Furner has been taken off the active roster (without pay because of his part-time status), but has not been permanently dismissed. He declined to comment further on the incident or Furner’s future with the local police department.

Colgate students reported that Furner had a reputation among many students for often acting in ways that were aggressive and confrontational. While students were generally reluctant to speak for attribution, a Colgate faculty member was more candid.

“I don’t think Furner should have been on this campus,” Associate Professor of Political Science Barry Shain said.

In a 2006 incident, Shain was pulled over by Furner for making an illegal left turn out of Persson Hall. In a 2007 op-ed piece in the Maroon-News, Shain described Furner as having acted in a “dangerous, punitive and abusive matter.”

In that 2007 article he wrote, “the Dean seems to be unconcerned or unwilling to confront what appears to be an entrenched network of unseemly cooperation between the village justice, local lawyers and the campus police force that, when viewed in an ungenerous light, seems to border on a legalized means by which to shake-down affluent Colgate students.”

In a recent interview with the Maroon-News, Professor Shain said, “The incident with me, a professor who had been here almost 20 years, should have been sufficient to remove him. The school didn’t care.” He added, “I was very disappointed with the administration so when I saw what happened to Furner, there was a sense of vindication.”     

“The guy has a serious attitude problem,” Michael Carini ’10 said. “He always went out of his way to be as difficult as possible. I remember one party got busted and while the other [Campus Safety] officers were being respectful and rational, Furner started screaming and cursing at us. It was totally inappropriate.”   

On April 30, Colgate reported that Furner would be put on administrative leave but did not disclose whether he would be eligible for reinstatement to his part-time position with Campus Safety. Vice President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson recently confirmed that Furner was no longer an employee of Colgate, but declined comment on the conditions of his departure.

“We take DUI very seriously,” Johnson said. “We have had none among the students this year and we plan to keep it that way.”

When asked whether Colgate gave employees and faculty preferential treatment when it came to their DWI policies, Johnson said, “We are consistent in our standards.”

In an earlier interview, Director of Campus Safety Bill Ferguson confirmed earlier reports that Campus Safety responded to the scene and was involved in the investigation but he declined any comment on Furner’s employment status or details of the night in question.  

The Maroon-News was referred to the Office of Human Resources. The Office of Human Resources and the Office of Accounting also declined comment on whether Furner was still an employee at Colgate.

Furner did not respond to a request for an interview.