Former fire chief arrested on indictment

Staff Report

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A former Cumberland fire chief has been indicted by a Harlan County Grand Jury on felony theft charges.

Fess L. Eldridge, 66, Cumberland, was arrested by Kentucky State Police Trooper Jimmy Halcomb on Tuesday. He was lodged in the Harlan County Detention Center and shortly afterward released on $1,000 cash bond.

According to the indictment, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2012, Eldridge committed the offense of theft by deception over $500, a Class D felony, by obtaining property or services of another person by depositing several checks “into his personal account, said checks made out to two members of the Cumberland Fire Department for training they did not attend, checks being in the amount of at least $2,452.”

The indictment also charges that during the same time period, Eldridge “obtained public money or property subject to a known legal obligation to make specified payment or other disposition by a public servant who intentionally deals with the public money or property as his or her own, and failed to make the required payment or disposition, by falsifying records of payment or placing the money in his own account.”

Eldridge was suspended from his position as fire chief in February following an investigation by state police into missing funds at the fire department. According to a report in February, KSP Det. Jason Joseph began his investigation on Jan. 28 after Post 10 was contacted by then Mayor Carl Hatfield.

In the earlier report, state police confirmed the investigation was into “theft by deception of cold checks” and estimated it would take several weeks for the probe to be completed.

KSP Sgt. Jackie Pickrell verified in an earlier report her agency received a complaint and a detective was assigned to investigate the case.

Attempts to reach Eldridge on Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Cumberland Mayor Carolyn Elliott declined comment because she wasn’t the mayor at the time of the alleged incident.

Doug “Red” Yaden was named fire chief earlier this year following Eldridge’s suspension.


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