Mayor arrested after city overcharges utility customers by $107,000

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COLUMBIA, Ky. (WKYT) - A grand jury has indicted the mayor of a town in Adair County.

Columbia Mayor Curtis Hardwick

According to Columbia Police, officers arrested Curtis Hardwick, the mayor of Columbia, on Monday afternoon. Police have charged Hardwick with theft and official misconduct.

An indictment against the mayor states that he gave an order to overcharge Columbia Natural Gas customers. Customers paid $107,000 more than was required.

Columbia Police Chief Jason Cross says police believe the mayor instructed his employees to charge that excess fee.

Mayor Hardwick says the charges stemmed from a billing mistake. Once that error was discovered, Hardwick says the city began repaying customers. The mayor says he believes he's done nothing wrong.

"You can indict a ham sandwich, and I guess I'm the ham sandwich," Mayor Hardwick said on Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Cross said the charge was in violation of a city ordinance and that's why police charged Hardwick.

The mayor and the chief of police operate out of the same building. That's led to some tension.

"It is a delicate situation. It's unfortunate," said Columbia Police Chief Jason Cross. "Our main goal is to make sure our citizens are protected. That's their job. Whether it be protection from the bad guys or protection from waste or fraud or abuse or anything like that."

Hardwick posted bond at the Circuit Clerk's Office following his arrest on Monday.

"I was very surprised. Very surprised, shocked because this has been an open issue. We talk about it every month. It's not like this is something new to come up. We talk about the process of paying people back every month," Mayor Hardwick said.

Mayor Hardwick did show up for work on Tuesday. He says he plans to continue serving as mayor while this case works its way through the court system. A judge set his arraignment date for later this month.

A city council member told WKYT they were planning to have a meeting to discuss the charges but couldn't comment on it until they decide what action to take.

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