FOX19 Investigates: County executive violating a judge's order? - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

FOX19 Investigates: County executive violating a judge's order?

Ken McFarland, the judge/executive of Gallatin County, taking the oath before testifying. Ken McFarland, the judge/executive of Gallatin County, taking the oath before testifying.

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 operations.

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 requirements.

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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