Former Cumberland Fire Chief facing charges

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The suspended fire chief in Cumberland is now facing charges.

A Harlan County grand jury indicted 66-year-old Fess Eldridge on charges of theft by deception and abuse of public trust.

State police arrested Eldridge on Tuesday.

"It caught me by surprise," said Cumberland City Council member David C. Dixon.

The indictment says in 2012, Eldridge deposited several checks totaling $2,452.00 into his personal account that were made out to two other members of the fire department. Officials say the checks were for training but the two firefighters did not attend.

State police say the indictment follows a lengthy investigation.

"Back in February, officials in Cumberland contacted Post about some missing money and at that time, we opened an investigation," said Trooper Shane Jacobs.

Eldridge is out of jail on a $1,000 bond. We were unable to reach him for comment. Court officials say he does not have a defense attorney listed yet.

Officials say this does not affect current business at the fire department. Former Mayor Carl Hatfield suspended Eldridge when the investigation started. Doug "Red" Yaden was named fire chief following Eldridge's suspension.

Dixon says City Council does not know much about the case other than what they were told in February when former mayor Carl Hatfield said state police were investigating Eldridge for missing funds. Dixon said he is surprised at the allegations.

"There'd never been any problems to my knowledge with finances or that nature," Dixon said.

Eldridge is scheduled to be arraigned on December 19th.


CUMBERLAND, Ky. (WYMT) - His job is to protect those in danger around his community, but now the head of one Harlan County Fire Department is suspended while a Kentucky State Police investigation continues.

Cumberland Mayor Carl Hatfield confirms Fire Chief Fess Eldridge is suspended at this time.

Cumberland City Council members say there are allegations of missing funds in the Cumberland Fire Department.

"We have to look after the taxpayer's money so that's what we expect to happen and let the chips fall where they may," said Charles Raleigh, Cumberland City Council member.

Council members say the mayor first told them of the issue two weeks ago. It was turned over to state police.
Detectives say they have a "theft by deception of cold checks" investigation at the department.

State police, the mayor, and city council members are not releasing any other details.

"The city council has been informed. The mayor's office has followed his protocol," said David C. Dixon, Cumberland City Council member.

Mayor Carl Hatfield told us off-camera Fire Chief Fess Eldridge is suspended while police conduct the investigation.
Eldridge has not returned WYMT's calls for comment.

State police say the investigation could take several weeks.

"Our detective is currently interviewing individuals and other than that, we can't go into the case details except we do have an open investigation and are looking into the situation," said Trooper Shane Jacobs.

Council members say they are waiting for the investigation to finish before determining if any other action is needed.

Council members say any discussion on the fire department investigation will be conducted in executive session.

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