The Harlan County Sheriff’s Office has closed an investigation into allegations of missing money at the Green Hills Water District.
The initial investigation was prompted by a complaint made to Kentucky State Police. The investigation was later transferred to the sheriff’s
office. The funds in question were two grants and one loan approved in 1993. One was a $575,000 grant from the USDA Rural Development
with an accompanying $470,000 loan. The third was a $350,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. In 2011, Magistrate
Jonathan Pope told the Enterprise “There were a lot of documents missing and we don’t know what the money was spent on.”
Ralph Turner, sitting chairman of the Green Hills Water Board, and other board members indicated in 2011 they were trying to locate documentation
to verify how the funds were spent. After taking over the investigation, Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird told the Enterprise in 2012 he turned
the case over to the Harlan County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, which took the case to federal authorities. Lipfird also said the FBI
turned down the case due to the agency’s heavy work load and time constraints. He said aspects of the case date back
more than 20 years. “When I was first contacted about the investigation, Ralph Turner and Ronnie Cook were doing the best
they could,” said Lipfird.“When I began looking into the matter, the water district itself had no records and those guys had just come on
the board. They were trying to play catch up and they realized something was wrong. We started looking into it and I contacted USDA Rural
Development, who was basically the administrator of the grants.“When I talked with them, Tom Partin, area specialist with the USDA Rural Development, he said, basically,
that they have so many checks and balances in place that if it didn’t raise a red flag with them then it was alright. He said we’d have
to go through the Freedom of Information Act and, basically a long process because it’s the federal government.
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there was nothing there and with all their checks and balances there was no way an offense had been committed. Basically,
they shut me down without shutting me down. I have closed my investigation. ”Plagued with problems for years, the Green
Hills Water District consolidated with the Black Mountain Utilities(BMUD) in April, 2012.According to records from the office of the
Harlan County Treasurer Ryan Creech, Harlan Fiscal Court paid, in full, a debt owed by the Green Hills Water District to the USDA
Rural Development in the amount of $383,149.71on Sept. 26. The funds used to pay this debt were from a LGED coal
severance grant. When contacted, Partin said he was not aware of any investigation or missing funds at the Green Hills Water District and
would “not request that any investigation ever be halted. ”“Yes, the $383,149.71debt was paid to the USDA Rural Development by
the Harlan Fiscal Court, ”said Partin. “Green Hills was a water district that had a bond through Rural Development, such as most of the districts do.
That was a remaining balance on that loan. The fiscal court obtained funds to pay that off prior to Green Hills Water District
merger with BMUD.” Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510,
Angry Whiteguy wrote:All you gotta do is embezzle several hundreds of thousands and all will be forgiven... Happened three times with the school board to the tune of about three or four million... All you have to do is resign and all will be expunged... Did anybody resign over this.??
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