Not only is Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) being challenged by a guy with a grudge against the judicial system, as Bluestem noted in Dean Urdahl faces MNGOP challenger Kyle Greene, but conservative activist Ford Peterson has reported to Litchfield Police that he feels that his life was threatened by a cane and walker-using 88-year-old WWII and Korean War veteran at the Meeker County Republican Convention.
A source passed the following email to Bluestem:
[email address redacted]02/22/14 5:44 PM
Mr. Ben Aho, Litchfield Police,Cc Chairman Mike HousmanCc Commissioner Dale FenrichCc Commissioner Beth ObergCc Commissioner Bryan LarsonCc Commissioner Mike HubertyFebruary 22, 2014Ben,Consider this an official incident report. As we discussed on the phone this afternoon, at least prior to you needing to attend to a police call, my life was threatened this morning.I was a delegate to the Meeker County GOP Convention held this morning at the Litchfield High School, representing Dassel Township. It started at 9AM. I arrived about 8:45AM and was met at the front door by Mr. Bruce Coddington [sic], who was seated with somebody I do not know. They were taking attendance and noting the delegates.I feel compelled to report this to someone. If I end up with a bullet in my head, I’m pretty certain my family will be upset and a few county workers will be celebrating.[emphasis added] I am uncertain as to whether this should be submitted to Litchfield PD, or Meeker Sheriff Norlin. It happened in Litchfield so I must presume Litchfield PD has jurisdiction.Mr. Coddington [sic] is, a would guess, in his 80s. His military training and service in WWII is legendary. For some unknown reason, he decided to openly threaten me this morning.“I want you to know that we have ways of dealing with people like you. I have training on how to deal with people like you. I want you to know that us Marines have ways of dealing with people like you and have been trained. I want you to know that.”I was stunned. This old codger going after me for absolutely no reason. I signed in, collected my lapel name badge and moved on. The fellow sitting at the table with Bruce must have heard the whole thing as he was within 2’ of me and right next to Bruce the whole time. When I first heard it, I would have guessed it to be some warped humor from an old duffer. But the look on his face and the tone to his voice was designed to deliver a direct threat for reasons I can only speculate. I can only speculate what Bruce intends to do or how to do it. He is a Freemason in Litchfield and they too have legendary ways and methods. [emphasis added]Walking away from Bruce I was immediately, as in 5 paces away, confronted by Hugh Wagner, former Meeker County Commissioner (coincidentally another Freemason).[emphasis added] I greeted him by putting forward my hand and while he shook it he immediately blurts out, “You need to stop going after Clark Gustafson.” I asked him what he was talking about and Hugh started blathering about “Clark is really upset. You need to stop going after him. Just wait a couple years and he will retire.” I said “We don’t have two years to wait. He needs to be gone and if that means wearing an orange suit and stripped of his pension, then so be it. You tell Clark he needs to retire. He doesn’t know how to supervise his staff and couldn’t recognize his staff doing right-from-wrong if it bit him in the ass and he needs to be gone.”I then asked Hugh if he had heard the rumor Clark was spreading that I was a devil worshipper. “Yes, I’ve heard something about that.” Was Hugh’s response. Then he pleaded with me again “You need to stop going after Clark. He’s really upset and will retire soon anyway. Leave him alone.”I walked away and proceeded to attend to my responsibility as delegate to the Meeker Convention. I have done nothing to provoke the threats or even the plea the I am doing something to Clark. I have no complaint against Clark so it is unclear what Hugh was talking about. But I will facilitate complaints against Clark by those who do have complaints. So the rumor mill is likely directing vengeance against me for reasons it would be impossible for me to understand.I am not asking to press charges. I want you to know that I am not a devil worshipper and was Baptized at Gethsemane Lutheran in Dassel. But I want this written up. I’m fairly certain Coddington has had training in how to kill people because his military service in WWII is legendary. I also want you to know that the most dangerous weapon I own is my ability to tell the truth. What I do know is that County Officers telling rumor and lies have a way of being spread for political purposes. And those lies have a way of falling into the hands of less than stable people. If this is a threat Clark is spreading to send a message to me, it’s working. I get the message that he doesn’t like the truth being exposed and it becomes proof positive that we need to clean house in Meeker County. I want the public threats against me to stop. I may be forced to consider legal options as to how to end the threats and slanderous behavior by public officials and would appreciate you following up on this report officially.If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me anytime.Ford PetersonDassel, MN[phone number redacted]
Well then. It's a serious matter to accuse a man of wanting to murder you. Who is this culprit?
Bruce Cottington, the first subject of the complaint, is the former owner of a Supervalu grocery store, a pillar of the local VFW, recipient of an honorary Minnesota Future Farmer of America (FFA) Degree Award and a Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame award recipient. The Minnesota Milk Producers named its "Friend of Dairy" award the Bruce Cottington. A write-up by the MMP notes:
To production, agriculture youth, and rural America. Today, the festival continues with an exchange program twice a year between Litchfield, Minnesota and Hartford, Alabama – a sister city in the program eliminate the winter blues in February, he started the Peanut Butter and Milk Festival in 1972. The festival helped to promote milk and peanut butter sandwiches since they went so well together, besides highlighting food.
In 1979, he sold his grocery store and went to work for the American Dairy Association of Minnesota, now the Midwest Dairy Association, as a field man promoting the Real Seal and working with the Check-Off program sponsored by Minnesota Dairy Farmers. Upon his retirement from the Dairy Association, he continued to work with and manage the State Fair malt stand located in the Empire Commons Building resulting in almost 20 years of service.
After his retirement from the Dairy Association, he decided to un-retire and continue to do what he does best – promote Minnesota’s Dairy Industry. He began working for Minnesota Milk as the Membership Coordinator allowing him to travel around the state and share with dairy producers the ideals and beliefs of Minnesota Milk while promoting and strengthening the industry that he truly loves. He has since retired from Minnesota Milk, but finds time in his busy schedule to support the activities of the organization such as the Dairy Day at the Capitol.
Believing that his local creamery is a true asset the community and the future of the dairy industry, often times you will find him buzzing through the First District Outlet Store checking on things, or handing out small gift certificates for 1 pound blocks of butter or cheese encouraging people to patronize the outlet store and the local dairy farmers. Taking it one step further, he does a twice weekly radio show on KLFD Radio called “Cheese Ball Corners” promoting items at the local outlet store, enlightening listeners with corny trivia and humor, discussing community events and highlighting agriculture in Meeker County besides interviewing the local dairy princesses. . . .
At the age of 15, he enlisted in the Navy during World War 2 and also did a tour of duty in Korea. He served 8 years and earned 8 Battle Ribbons in the service of our country. On Memorial Day in 2004, he represented the Minnesota American Legion at the dedication the World War 2 Memorial in Washington D.C.
In 2005, Bruce was inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame. He has received the WCCO Radio Good Neighbor Award. And, he was also honored as a Hometown Hero by the Hutchinson radio station for his dedication to the community as a member of the Kiwanis, Shrine Club, and VFW.
And finally, in 2002, the Senate of the State of Minnesota thanked him for his lifelong service to his community, state, and country by a formal resolution on the floor of the Senate in his honor.
A former resident of Meeker County, Bluestem' editor met Cottington early on, as everyone involved in community, civic, or political organizing in the central Minnesota community does. While we lean to the left, that didn't matter to Cottington, who believes in treating all people with respect and kindness. He was also one to say hello, wave in parades, and talk about the importance of the dairy industry for the Litchfield community (Litchfield is home to First District, an independent cheese-making co-operative0.
Cottington is a life-long Republican rooted in the farm and business communities in Greater Minnesota; one of his legacies to his beloved part is his son, Scott Cottington, a nationally respected Republican consultant who runs The Voyageur Company in Mendota Heights.
Bluestem called Cottington this weekend to ask about the veracity of the report. Cottington said that he and another Republican volunteer were registering delegates, that he signed in Ford Peterson, took his registration money, and that was that. He noted that the other volunteer backs up his story.
Moreover, Cottington feels that his service in the Marines was done to "defend this country and all American citizens." He also took issue with the conspiracy theory notion of the Free Masons as a force for evil, and we laughed about the demonization of a fraternal civic organization known in reality for charitable works.
The accusation seems pretty far-fetched, we agreed, but it was clear as we talked that the cordial and cheerful veteran and civic leader was distressed by the swipes taken at him after a lifetime of service to his country, community and fellow citizens.
His accuser has made his bones in Meeker County politics by making accusations--none of which have gone to law as far as Bluestem knows--against county commissioners, a sheriff and civil servants. Some of the charges are collected on his blog, Minnesota Patriots, although he does seem to have made many past posts unavailable to the public.
We think that's all part of the game-o, and the facts have a way of sorting themselves out in politics and government, but with this latest report, Peterson is attacking a private citizen who has lived an honorable and downright admirable life, with the fear for his life apparently generated by some of the most pop-tart of the conspiracy theories.
The substance of the report to the police dishonors not only combat veterans of the United States Marine Corps by painting them as lifelong killers, but members of fraternal organizations which aid hospitals, medical research, education, food shelves and domestic abuse shelters across the state. National Geographic magazine debunks some of the myth here, while Public Eye looks at origins of the silly notion that Masons are assassins.
In his defense, Peterson has contributed to his community's well-being by being a gadfly. His questioning of conflicting information contained in school levy documents mailed to Dassel-Cokato District residents led Representative Urdahl to look into the matter. The Litchfield Independent Review reported:
. . . But after conferring with State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, School District Superintendent Jeff Powers learned that the district should have phrased the ballot question to request $650 per student — not the $438 per student figure. If it had passed, the ballot question would have prevented the school district from levying as much as Powers says is needed to balance the district’s budget over the long term.
. . .Concerns about the ballot question surfaced after Dassel resident Ford Peterson and other district voters began to question what Peterson described as conflicting information contained within those documents mailed to voters. Feeling confused, Peterson said, he asked Urdahl to examine the ballot question’s legality.
Urdahl said he inquired with state officials and discovered the district did make a mistake in wording the ballot question.
On Oct. 31, Powers sent a letter to district voters explaining the mistake and outlining options for handling it. “I want people to understand what they’re voting on and then be able to make a choice, and right now I think that’s very hard to have happen,” Powers said on Monday.
Peterson said he helped Powers in crafting the Oct. 31 letter explaining the mistake. “We just put together to the best of our ability a disclosure,” Peterson said.
Powers said he had several conversations with Peterson about the levy’s legality. “We’ve had some very good visits,” Powers said.
Urdahl said Location Equity Aid is different from other types of aid received by school districts because it was created as part of tax legislation adopted during this year’s Legislature session. Because of its inclusion in a tax bill, the district needed to include the aid amount in the levy request.
“We have a complicated and convoluted system. It needs to be simplified,” Urdahl said. . . .
That sort of watchdog work is a good thing. Imagining that community-minded senior citizens living with disabilities are killers out of a Dan Brown or Nicholas Cage movie or whatever whackdoodle conspiracy about Masons and Marines? Not so much.
Photo: Bruce Cottington,still helping out in Litchfield, despite using a walker. Via Facebook.