Paintsville mayor indicted on federal theft charges

Paintsville Mayor Robert Porter and a former city official took part in shortchanging the city on utility payments, a federal grand jury charged Thursday.

The grand jury charged Porter and Larry Herald, former manager of the Paintsville Utilities Commission, with two counts each of theft of government property, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey’s office.

Herald also was indicted on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Porter did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Efforts to reach Herald were not successful.

The indictment alleged that from late 2009 to mid-2012, Porter did not pay for utility services to two houses he owned in town. The city utilities commission provides water, natural gas and sewer services.

Porter skirted his bills with Herald’s help, the indictment said.

The commission’s billing system generated notices to shut off service to people with delinquent bills. However, Herald removed those notices on Porter’s properties, or had others do so, before they went to field workers who would have cut off the water or gas, the indictment said.

Porter’s delinquency was more than $7,000 before it was discovered by the city council and utilities commission, the indictment said.

Porter also allegedly used taxpayer money to pay for personal expenses, such as maintenance and gas for his personal vehicles, and used a city vehicle for personal trips.

Herald allegedly lied to the FBI in August about his knowledge of Porter’s delinquent utility bill, telling authorities he had no idea why service to the houses had not been cut off.

State police and the FBI investigated the allegations.

The most serious charges against Porter and Herald carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, according to Harvey’s office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor requested summonses directing the two to come to court for an initial appearance. The hearing has not been scheduled.