PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — Two top officials in McCracken County have pleaded not guilty to tampering with public records.
The Paducah Sun (http://bit.ly/19zfvXu) reports Judge-Executive Van Newberry and Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice were arraigned Thursday in McCracken Circuit Court.
The two were indicted last week by a grand jury in connection with unauthorized zone changes in the county affecting at least 500 pieces of property.
Defense attorney Will Kautz said Newberry and Harnice are innocent.
"I don't believe any crime was committed by Judge Newberry or Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice," Kautz said Thursday. "We were both shocked by the indictment. It's clear that obtaining an indictment is a heck of a lot easier than obtaining a conviction."
Commonwealth's Attorney G.L. Ovey said the investigation began after officials received complaints about the zone changes. One person purchased property that was zoned as commercial but discovered it had changed to residential when he went to sell it, Ovey said. Property was devalued in a large majority of the cases, he said.
Newberry has said that he and Harnice suggested changes to fix an improper map drawn up by the city, but that he did nothing illegal.
Meanwhile, Circuit Judge Craig Clymer presided over the arraignment but said both he and Circuit Judge Tim Kaltenbach would recuse themselves from the case because a former circuit judge is running against Newberry for judge-executive.
"The appearance, if we were to stay on, would be questionable," Clymer said.
A special judge is expected to be appointed within two weeks.
Information from: The Paducah Sun, http://www.paducahsun.com