Ninth Former Armstrong Coal Official Charged in Kentucky Case
A federal grand jury also charged the nine Armstrong Coal officials with making false statements as to results of tests required to be conducted every 60 days to protect certain "designated occupations," which are the dustiest and most dangerous job assignments in a coal mine.
MSHA announced Feb. 27 that a ninth former Armstrong Coal official has been charged with conspiracy to defraud an agency of the United States government, in this case by conspiring to deceive federal mine safety regulators about the daily levels of breathable dust at two coal mines -- the Parkway Mine of Muhlenberg County, Ky., and Kronos Mine of Ohio County, Ky. A federal grand jury also charged the nine Armstrong Coal officials with making false statements as to results of tests required to be conducted every 60 days to protect certain "designated occupations," which are the dustiest and most dangerous job assignments in a coal mine.
The previous charges were announced in July 2018. A federal grand jury now has indicted Glendal "Buddy" Hardison, former manager of all Armstrong Coal western Kentucky mines, alleging that Hardison met with co-defendant Ron Ivy and an unindicted co-conspirator in 2013 and ordered them to do whatever they had to do to "make the pumps come in," according to the MSHA news release.
It quoted U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman: "As we showed today, the United States will continue to aggressively go up the chain to hold accountable those who made calculated business decisions that placed our miners at grave risk."
"Miners' safety and health is our top priority," said David G. Zatezalo, assistant secretary in charge of MSHA, which conducted the investigation that led to the charges. "If supervisors and safety officials are breaking the law, we'll do everything we can to ensure that the laws are enforced and miners receive the protections they deserve," he added.
The indictment charges Armstrong officials removed dust testing devices early in the miners' shifts and placed them in less dusty or "clean air"; that during a testing period, officials replaced miners who ran the most dust-causing machines with miners who were not wearing the dust testing devices so that the company would pass the tests; that Armstrong officials fabricated and submitted dust sampling test results on days the mine was shut down or otherwise not in operation; that officials ordered that testing devices be run in "clean air" before and after shifts to skew the test results move favorably; and that a mine superintendent twice ordered a safety official to take whatever action was necessary to ensure the company passed dust sampling tests.
Armstrong Coal, now bankrupt, is designated by the indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator. The former Armstrong supervisory and safety officials who have been charged in the case are:
- Charley Barber, 63, of Madisonville, a former superintendent of Parkway Mine
- Glendal Hardison, 69, of Belton, former manager of all of Armstrong Coal western Kentucky mines
- Brian Keith Casebier, 60, of Earlington, a former safety director at Parkway Mine
- Steven Demoss, 48, of Nortonville, a former assistant safety director at Parkway Mine
- Billie Hearld, 42, of Russellville, a former section foreman at Parkway Mine
- Ron Ivy, 50, of Manitou, a former safety director at Kronos Mine
- John Ellis Scott, 62, of South Carrollton, a former employee in the Safety Department at Parkway Mine
- Dwight Fulkerson, 40, of Drakesboro, a former section foreman who performed dust testing at Parkway Mine
- Jeremy Hackney, 46, of White Plains, a former section foremen who performed dust testing at Parkway Mine
The Kronos Mine remains in operation under different ownership, but the Parkway Mine is no longer open, the release states.