Commission Members Say Sheriff Did Not Follow Procedure For Destroying Records

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Sheriff Patrick Kelly did not follow correct procedures when he disposed of county records in a landfill, according to members of the Athens County Records Commission.

Although a dispute arose last week over whether Kelly disposed of records belonging to the county prosecutor’s office — Kelly says he did not — the fact that several trips were made to the landfill to dispose of sheriff’s office records is also raising questions.

County Commissioner Lenny Eliason, who is chairman of the records commission, and County Auditor Jill Thompson, who is records commission secretary, both said Kelly should have filed with the commission what are called RC-3 forms, but did not. The forms serve as notification to the records commission and Ohio Historical Society that there is intent to destroy records, and to give local and state historical society officials an opportunity to claim some of the records if any have historical value. The form is to be filed at least 15 days prior to the proposed disposal date.

“I’m still not clear on it,” Kelly said Friday concerning when a RC-3 is required. “I’m going to find that out Tuesday.”

On Tuesday, the records commission will consider a records retention schedule submitted by Kelly. The schedule lists the lengths of time that various records will be retained. The document — which still must be approved by the records commission, state auditor and Ohio Historical Society — states that it was “approved on January 13, 2013 as reflected by the minutes kept by this commission.”

Kelly said Friday that the document contains that date because that’s when he first submitted it to the records commission.

Thompson said commission meeting minutes show that Kelly has never appeared at a commission meeting since he has been sheriff.

Eliason said he saw the records retention document for the first time within the past two weeks, and that Kelly signed it Tuesday.

Kelly said he was operating under the assumption that he should be following that document, but has since learned that the one that’s actually in effect is one approved in 2005 for former sheriff Vern Castle.

The two documents are similar, except the new one indicates the retention dates do not have to be followed once a record has been microfilmed.

“Once the record is scanned or microfilmed or determined to have no evidentiary value, it may be destroyed,” the newer document states.

Kelly said all the sheriff’s documents that were taken to the landfill had been microfilmed. He also said he believes proper procedures were followed in disposing of the records.

Both the 2005 document and the proposed one indicate that RC-3 forms should be filed.

Records were taken to the landfill by an employee of the Athens County Engineer’s Office, but also taken were junk, trash and other unneeded items that the sheriff’s office was throwing away. County Engineer Jeff Maiden said last week that he did not know county records were being disposed of and he felt “misled.” Kelly responded Friday that others at the engineer’s department knew.

The county was billed by the landfill for six loads dumped there by the engineer’s employee on behalf of the sheriff’s office this month. Kelly estimated that four of the loads included sheriff’s records among the other items being thrown away.

It was partly those six bills — for the disposal of more than 9 tons — that prompted County Commissioner Charlie Adkins to give Kelly a written request Thursday asking for a list of all files the office destroyed and for the forms allowing those files to be destroyed.

The request comes after Adkins became aware that records had been loaded on a truck Monday to be taken to a landfill. Disposal of the records was stopped, and they were instead taken to a county building on North Lancaster Street for storage.

“I know of no document that allows what I saw in the truck Monday to be destroyed,” Adkins said Friday. “I think my job as county commissioner is to protect any county property. I guess I was a little concerned when Monday I saw the county vehicle being loaded with files and other objects.”

Kelly said his office kept track of which documents were taken to the landfill, and will compile a list for the records commission and provide Adkins a copy.

“We have a record of every record that was destroyed,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the reason records were destroyed at this time is that needed space is being cleared at the sheriff’s office by moving records that still must be maintained to the North Lancaster Street building, where county records are being consolidated.