Monday, October 7 2013 6:50 PM EDT2013-10-07 22:50:03 GMT
A judge today denied a request by a tow truck company owner to hold the Gallatin County judge/executive in contempt of court. His attorney had argued Judge/Exec Ken McFarland intentionally defied the courtMore >
A judge today denied a request by a tow truck company owner to hold the Gallatin County judge/executive in contempt of court.More >
WARSAW, KY (FOX19) -
It's not often a county's top elected leader is accused of
contempt of court. But that's the controversy erupting in this rural Gallatin
County town along the Ohio River, about 45 minutes outside of Cincinnati.
In Kentucky, the judge/executive is at the top of the
pecking order in a county. Three years ago, voters put Republican Ken McFarland
in office for the first time. But now the county attorney, who happens to be
the area's Democratic Party leader, is having to defend McFarland against an
accusation that he didn't follow a judge's written order.
That claim comes from Bobby Searcy, the owner of Big Rig One
Stop Shop, a wrecker service that specializes in lifting big rigs off
Interstate 71 and nearby highways when they crash. He used to be the only one
on the list of qualified tow truck operators that police dispatchers call. But
cleaning-up these scenes can be worth $7,500 to $10,000 each. So it's no
surprise that a competitor appeared on the dispatchers' list this year. The
only problem is, Searcy claims his competitor isn't qualified.
Searcy says his competitor's truck isn't big enough to lift
big rigs and doesn't have the air brake connections needed to stop a trailer.
He also says he's taken specialized training classes to learn how to lift heavy
vehicles off of people so that you don't kill them or make their injuries
worse. Searcy also questions whether his competitor has the correct amount of
insurance and inspections done.
Earlier this year, Searcy says he met with McFarland asking
the judge/executive, who oversees the county's 911 dispatch system as part of
his duties, to take his competitor off the list. After not hearing back, Searcy
went to court. His attorney convinced Kentucky Circuit Court Judge James
Schrand to order McFarland to take the competitor off the list and to follow
the county's own guidelines when it comes to approving big rig tow truck
The competitor is still on the list.
So Searcy's attorney, Grant Axon, asked Judge Schrand on
Monday to hold McFarland in contempt of court.
On the stand, McFarland testified that he "absolutely"
followed the judge's order. But he concedes that Searcy's competitor was only
off the approved tow truck list for anywhere from "30 seconds" to a couple of
hours after the county received the judge's order. McFarland says the county
attorney's office, which is representing him in court, informed him that they
checked with dispatchers and Searcy's competitor has the correct paperwork on
file. So McFarland says he was satisfied that he'd met the judge's
Judge Schrand did not make a decision during Monday's
hearing. He is giving Gallatin County until Friday to provide more
documentation. Then he'll allow Searcy's side to respond. So it could be a
couple of weeks before there is a ruling.
Judge/Executive McFarland and county attorneys declined to
speak on-camera with FOX19 while the judge is considering how to rule.
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