BREATHITT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — There appears to be bad blood boiling over in Breathitt County, in light of some drama surrounding the Sheriff's office budget.
Last week, Sheriff John Hollan laid off his entire department because his 2020 budget hadn't been passed. In a press release, he blamed Breathitt County Judge Executive Jeff Noble for "not acting in a timely manner to schedule a meeting to approve the department's 2020 budget."
After days of uncertainty, the county's fiscal court passed the budget Monday by a vote of 3-2, and Hollan's concerns had subsided. However, it appears the scrutiny over Noble's actions is building.
"In my opinion, the judge executive has been vindictive toward the Sheriff's office," said Magistrate Donnie Bush, who sits on the county's fiscal court with Judge Noble.
Magistrate Bush echoed others when suggesting Noble's actions were driven by personal grievances. Last year, Noble was indicted on 18 felony counts, including theft by unlawful taking and official misconduct.
According to public documents, Noble used public money to pay for lumber that was intended for personal use. He is awaiting trial on those charges.
"As a citizen, I don't feel that I can safely speak my mind with retaliation," said Anne Noble, a Breathitt County resident who is not related to Judge Noble.
Speaking to LEX 18 Monday, she held in her hands a copy of a petition for impeachment, calling for Judge Noble to be removed from office. She, too, believes Noble toyed with the budget to retaliate against Sheriff Hollan.
"I feel like this was his way of paying them back for doing their jobs," Anne Noble said.
The petition also alleges that Judge Noble has "attempted to establish a quite literal form of dictatorship at county fiscal court meetings, prohibiting both fiscal court members and public citizens from voicing opinions that conflict with his and going so far as to threaten and attempt to remove citizens and magistrates from these meetings."
After several attempts to contact Judge Noble, his daughter reached out to us, advising us to speak with his lawyer. His lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Becky Curtis, the Breathitt County Clerk, issued a statement in support of Judge Noble, taking aim at the magistrates who voted for the sheriff's budget--including Magistrate Bush.
"The majority of the county feels that three of the four magistrates are creating division in our county. I stand with the majority and feel Jeff Noble has done the best job he can considering he's working with the 'gang of three.'"