Alternative to landfilling county records proposed

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Rather than disposing of county records containing personal information by burying them in a landfill, an Athens County commissioner is proposing that the documents be shredded and recycled.

Commissioner Chris Chmiel suggested at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting that such a policy be adopted.

Landfilling of records has been in the news recently because County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said he believes stored records belonging to his office were sent to the landfill by Sheriff Patrick Kelly, who denies it.

Kelly has been shipping some of his own office records to a county building on North Lancaster Street for storage, and has sent some of his records (which he says have been microfilmed) to the landfill for burying. Members of the Athens County Records Commission have said Kelly did not follow proper procedures in disposing of the records.

On Friday, prosecutor’s office staff recovered some records from the landfill, according to Blackburn, who said they were turned over to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. He would not elaborate on what records were recovered. A source told The Messenger that at lease one representative of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has been asking questions about disposal of records in the landfill by the sheriff.

Chmiel acknowledged that any policy on shredding records could not be forced upon other elected officeholders.

“It would be best management (practice) or policy, but we couldn’t make them do it,” Chmiel said.

Commissioner Lenny Eliason suggested that the commissioners could adopt it as a policy for their office and then try to get other officeholders to sign on to it, but said the commissioners should take time to draft it and review it before adopting the policy.

“I have no objection to it, but the better we write it the more chance that (other officeholders) will sign on to it,” Eliason said.