Chaplains group sues over judge-executive's comments

HARLAN — A group of Eastern Kentucky chaplains has sued the Harlan County judge-executive over comments he made about the organization, including that the chaplains were selling donated items online.

Attorney Robert Melvin, who represents the Harlan County Sheriff's Office Chaplain Corps, said "a significant number of individuals" have told him about comments made by Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop that questioned the honesty of the group's members.

Melvin told The Harlan Daily Enterprise that Grieshop accused the chaplains of conducting illegal activities as part of his dispute with Sheriff Marvin Lipfird. Melvin filed the suit in Harlan Circuit Court seeking unspecified damages, saying the comments hurt the group's ability to raise money.

"The Chaplain Corps has suffered from one of its major contributors curtailing, if not withdrawing, much of its support, which has very much limited the corps' ability to conduct its charitable activities," Melvin said.

Grieshop declined to discuss specifics of the allegations against him.

"I have no comment at this time. It's a legal matter and it will be resolved. My statements are true; other than that, I have no further comment," Grieshop said.

In the lawsuit, the Chaplain Corps said Grieshop knew his statements were false, including one that the Chaplain Corps was "under investigation." Melvin said the organization is unaware of any investigation by law enforcement.

"It's very easily alleged that some unnamed amorphous entity is conducting an investigation. Certainly, Grieshop didn't bother to elaborate on that," Melvin said.