Updated Sun, Feb 16, 2014 6:26 am
It has been nearly a month since a visiting judge ordered the Athens County Sheriff’s Office to provide documents via a subpoena requested by the Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation (BCI).
Since that time, the office staff said they have been working diligently to fulfill a subpoena for Sheriff Patrick Kelly’s case that has cost them time they would have ordinarily spent doing their official duties.
“I would say we have anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 file folders, each file folder can contain anywhere from 10 to 30 pages in any folder,” said Brynne Morris, an employee who processes concealed carry applications and other records for the office.
The most recent records subpoenas date back to October, when four subpoenas came from BCI.
One requested documentation on firearms obtained, held in evidence, disposed of, “currently on hand” or sold by the sheriff’s office and a second asked for records relating to concealed carry weapon licensure and applications, according to previous Messenger reporting.
A third subpoena asked for records of “actual hours worked at the Athens County Sheriff’s Academy by the Athens County sheriff, any and all Athens County Sheriff’s Office deputies” and sheriff’s office employees and instructors at the academy.
Another subpoena asked for the “cashbook required to be held by the Athens County sheriff” pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code, with records related to Jan. 1, 2009 to the present.
On Jan. 24, Visiting Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove ordered the sheriff’s office to respond to all outstanding subpoenas, based on the arguments in a motion to compel by state prosecutor James Roberts.
“The court finds that the Athens County Sheriff’s Office has (failed) to comply with such subpoenas and failed to offer a compelling reason not to disclose the requested information,” Cosgrove wrote in the order.
The judge required the sheriff’s office to comply by Jan. 30.
Later, the prosecution stated in a brief filed Feb. 10 that it only made the motion to compel “after having not received a single call or piece of correspondence from counsel for the ACSO, and further having not received a single additional document responsive (to the) subpoenas” since the court order filed Jan. 23.
Morris said she was notified by Kelly on Jan. 27 that the office had to comply to the concealed carry subpoena, so the scanning and staple-removing of thousands of files began.
“On the 29th, I burned the CDs of this information for the agents,” Morris said.
She said she had a day off scheduled on the Jan. 30, so she contacted BCI agent Kevin Cooper.
“I called him and I said, ‘Listen, we don’t have it all done, but we’ve got done what we can, I’ll be glad to give you what I can,’” Morris said. “(Cooper) said, ‘I’ll be there to pick it up on Friday,’ and they never showed up.”
A voicemail from a sheriff’s office phone, obtained by The Messenger, confirms that Cooper contacted the office on Jan. 29.
According to Morris, she returned Cooper’s call and he allegedly said he would contact Roberts about collecting the documents.
“Roberts said just give what you do have, we’ll take what you have,” Morris claimed.
Morris said she was told agents would collect the finished records on Jan. 31, the day BCI agents hand-delivered a 25-count indictment to Kelly on theft in office, engaging in corrupt activities, and other charges.
“They came over, served him his indictment and never picked up the disc,” Morris said. “So for them to file (a motion to hold the sheriff’s office in contempt), it’s not right, because we’ve been working non-stop.”
Dan Tierney, a spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, confirmed that a conversation between Morris and BCI occurred and that it was agreed that documents on a CD would be provided.
“It is my understanding that the discs were to be delivered to the (Athens County) courthouse, where agents would pick them up, but they never received them,” Tierney told the Messenger on Friday.
Tierney said other than a disc with information about officer training schedules that was not a functioning disc, the attorney general’s office has not received any documents.
“We asked for it in a different format, but other than that we have not received any documents,” Tierney claimed.
A staff of eight employees have sacrificed normal duties to work on the documents requested, with the full-time employees procuring overtime in the process, Morris claimed.
According to records with the Athens County Auditor’s Office, no overtime has been filed for by the members of the staff. Morris explained that staff have instead “flexed” the time so as to save the county money.
A motion filed Feb. 7 by T. Allen Regas and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, who represent Kelly in his official capacity, argued that the subpoenas were “unreasonable and oppressive” and that attorneys had contacted the prosecution about the volume of documents asked for.
“Counsel contacted the state on multiple occasions regarding the oppressive and burdensome nature of the subpoenas in an attempt to limit the requests and reach a resolution on the issue and avoid filing a motion to quash,” the motion stated.
The attorneys for the sheriff’s office requested that the court wait until a decision was made regarding Kelly’s possible suspension before determining whether the remaining records should be provided.
The prosecution, however, said this should not be a determining factor.
“The only possible legitimate reason for this request would be if the sheriff were taking steps himself to obstruct or delay the ACSO from complying with the state’s subpoenas,” Roberts concluded.
Kelly denies Roberts’ claim, maintaining that the office has been in compliance.
“The part about us not complying was an outright misleading statement, a borderline lie,” Kelly said. “I have communicated with my attorney ... and my staff has communicated with them.”
A show cause hearing on the motion to compel was scheduled for Feb. 28 by Cosgrove at Kelly’s arraignment.