McCracken County Judge-Executive Van Newberry and Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Thursday to tampering with public records.
Will Kautz represents Newberry. David Bundrick represents Harnice.
Although Circuit Judge Craig Clymer allowed the pair to be arraigned, he noted that he and Circuit Judge Tim Kaltenbach would recuse themselves. Former Circuit Judge Jeff Hines is running against Newberry for judge-executive this fall.
"The appearance, if we were to stay on, would be questionable," Clymer said.
Newberry and Harnice pleaded not guilty to the Class D felony, which upon conviction is punishable by one to five years in prison.
Special prosecutor G.L. Ovey led an investigation into allegations that zoning map changes were made without following the proper channels between 2007 and 2008. More than 500 unauthorized changes allegedly were made to the maps during that time.
Newberry has said that he and Harnice suggested changes to fix an improper map drawn up by the city, but that he did nothing illegal.
They were indicted last week by a grand jury that heard three days of testimony and evidence from Ovey.
"I don't believe any crime was committed by Judge Newberry or Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice," Kautz said Thursday. "We were both shocked by the indictment. It's clear that obtaining an indictment is a heck of a lot easier than obtaining a conviction."
Kautz and Bundrick were brought in as counsel for Newberry and Harnice as individuals, not in any capacity with the county.
Clymer said Thursday that he would consult with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton's office to find a new trial judge. Newberry and Harnice requested an expedited trial, and Clymer said he would suggest the office find a judge who could help the case to move quickly. Ovey told the court he would begin getting documents together for the discovery process as soon as possible.
The appointment of a special judge could take one to two weeks, at which point the group would schedule a pretrial conference.
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.
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