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Former Big Sandy jail official pleads not guilty

The former chairman of the oversight board at Big Sandy Regional Detention Center in Paintsville pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of felony theft.

John D. Harmon, 64, of Pilgrim, a candidate for magistrate in Martin County, missed his previously scheduled arraignment because of emergency surgery, his attorney said, but was able to come to court Friday. Harmon is free on bond.

He is accused of getting reimbursed for sometimes daily 100-mile trips between Martin County and the jail, when board members were allowed mileage only on monthly meeting days.

He is also accused of charging taxpayers for hotel rooms and unauthorized trips to conferences and meetings. The Big Sandy jail serves its home county, Johnson, as well as Martin, Lawrence and Magoffin counties.

Harmon resigned from the board this spring as allegations of corruption and abuse of inmates became public. Two other jail officials have been charged.

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