Rep. Steve Riggs says KY law could remove SE Bullitt Fire Chief - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Rep. Steve Riggs says KY law could remove SE Bullitt Fire Chief

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SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)  -- A new twist today in the case of the Fire Chief under investigation for mismanagement and under fire for racist remarks.

Democratic Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville says, "The state makes it very clear that we want the County Judge Executive to take charge in these types of situations and be a leader."

Riggs is the Chair of the House Standing Committee on Local Government which has jurisdiction over fire districts.

He points to a Kentucky law on why SE Bullitt Fire Chief Julius Hatfield should be removed. It says an elected firefighter trustee may be removed from office by the county judge executive for inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance or conflict of interest. The removal would still have to be approved by fiscal court.

"It's important the that public be aware that the County Judge Executive does have authority in this situation, not really sure what's causing the reticent behavior there," Riggs said. 

Hatfield is both the Chairman of the Southeast Bullitt Fire Protection District Board as well as the Vice-Chairman of the Fire Department Board, also called the Fire Corporation Board.

County Judge Executive Melanie Roberts previously said her office had no legal authority to remove Hatfield. She tells WDRB she just learned she has more authority than she thought.

"I have not been advised on the details on the law," Roberts said. "So now that advice has been given, we shall act upon it."

Just last week, Hatfield's house as well as the main firehouse were raided by the Sheriff's Department. Investigators seized boxes of financial documents and computers. The Sheriff's Department is investigating Hatfield for insurance fraud, abuse of public trust, and intimidating and bribing a witness.

The FBI is also investigating.

Questions have surfaced about the Fire Department's finances, and his ability to lead it after video surfaced of him making a racist remark about a black family he was supposed to be helping. It would be up to a grand jury to indict Hatfield for criminal charges.

"I've encouraged my appointees to do the right thing," Roberts said. "You asked what the right thing is... and that is to see the Chief resign."

Riggs has also asked the Kentucky Auditor's Office to speed up its examination of the Protection District.

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