Obama sign removed; Aspen Village woman charged with theft | VailDaily.com

Obama sign removed; Aspen Village woman charged with theft

Rick Carroll
Aspen Correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN VILLAGE, Colorado ” Eva Dempsey hasn’t decided who she will vote for in the presidential election. But when it comes to campaign signs, the decision to yank down one supporting Sen. Barack Obama was fairly easy.

Dempsey insists she was merely acting in her capacity as vice president of the Aspen Village homeowners’ association (HOA) when she removed the sign. She claimed that the sign’s size violated the HOA’s covenant, which is why she took it upon herself to take it down Sept. 22. At one time the Obama sign, which was posted on a fence in front of the Aspen Village neighborhood, could be seen by motorists driving along Highway 82.

One of them was Dempsey.

“I was driving home, and I saw this big sign and I said to myself, ‘Isn’t this illegal to have a sign that big?'” Dempsey recalled Wednesday.

Apparently not. But according to one deputy, it was illegal to remove it.

Dempsey is scheduled to appear in Pitkin County Court in December to face a misdemeanor theft charge for removing and getting rid of the sign. She was cited this week by Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Grant Jahnke, who also appeared at Tuesday’s Aspen Village HOA meeting, during which the sign issue was addressed by residents.

The sign’s owner, Aspen Village resident Gail Mason, isn’t so sympathetic to Dempsey’s claim that she was acting on the HOA’s behalf. Mason claimed that the sign was worth at least $575, and Dempsey had no right to take it down from the fence running behind Aspen Village resident Harry Smith’s yard. Aspen Village is located in unincorporated Pitkin County, just beyond the upper end of Snowmass Canyon.

Mason said when the sign disappeared, she began to investigate. She took an out in the Aspen Daily News seeking information. She called the sheriff’s office. And when the trail began to lead to Dempsey, she put a note in her windshield asking her to come clean.

There was no response until about one week ago, Mason said.

“I probably would have dropped the whole thing if she had apologized,” Mason said.

Dempsey said she felt “portrayed” by the neighbors when the issue came to light at Tuesday’s meeting. She was hoping she would use HOA fees to pay for the sign, but she got no backing from her neighbors and was instead charged with theft.

“I wanted some support from the association, and now I have to appear in court and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Dempsey’s story has changed at least once, however. When Deputy Jahnke first asked her about the sign, she denied taking it down. She later confessed.

“I didn’t want to admit it at the beginning because I wanted support from the [HOA],” she said.

Deputy Jeff Lumsden, quoting from Jahnke’s police report, said the sign was 4 feet by 6 feet. According to Dempsey, the HOA covenants prohibit posted signs exceeding 18 by 24 inches. But it was not until after she took down the sign that she learned there is an exemption for political signs during election season.

She also said if the sign had John McCain’s name on it, she would have taken it down, too.

“It doesn’t matter what the politics are,” she said. “It was the size.”

Lumsden said the Dempsey case is the first he knows of its type in Pitkin County this election season.

Even so, the presidential race has been the target of some vandalism.

Earlier this week Old Snowmass resident Frieda Wallison, who was a delegate at the Republican National Convention held during the first week of September, e-mailed The Aspen Times earlier this week to report a sign she had posted in favor of McCain had been removed from the Cerise property along Highway 82. She also said a number of McCain signs on Ace Lane in Basalt were destroyed.

A planter also was thrown the Obama campaign office in Glenwood Springs sometime Sunday night, the Glenwood Post Independent reported in its Wednesday edition.

“This is classic Nazi behavior,” said Camilla Auger, chair of the Pitkin County Democratic Party.

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