Athens County Sheriff May Have Known Of Records Disposal Rules

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Members of the Athens County Records Commission have said Sheriff Patrick Kelly failed to file a required form (called a RC-3) before destroying county records, but elected officials were alerted more than a year ago to rules governing that form.

The alert came from Sheriff Patrick Kelly.

The Messenger made a public records request Wednesday of County Commissioner Lenny Eliason, who is chairman of the county records commission, for copies of e-mails he provided to a state investigator.

Among those e-mails is one that Kelly sent April 6, 2012 to a majority of the county’s elected officials.

“I just received notice that the Ohio Historical Society has issued new forms for records destruction. I have attached them,” Kelly wrote.

One of the attached documents was instructions for RC-3 forms. It explains the purpose of the form, and says that it should be submitted to the historical society a minimum of 15 days before the proposed disposal date. It describes the RC-3 as “a legal document representing compliance to the Ohio Revised Code …”

The Messenger asked Kelly how, given the e-mail he had sent more than a year ago, he could not have been aware of the requirement to file an RC-3 before he destroyed documents in May.

“I don’t have any comment,” Kelly said, adding that at this point he will just see what happens — an apparent reference to Thursday’s grand jury being held in Athens County.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has subpoenaed people — including Eliason and Kelly — to testify before the grand jury. The attorney general’s office has not said what the grand jury will be considering, nor even publicly acknowledged it is taking place.

Eliason said he believes it has to do with the sheriff, since the state investigator made a public records request of Eliason for documents relating to the sheriff’s disposal of records. The e-mails were sent to the investigator in response to that request.

County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn has acknowledged he asked the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to look into the sheriff’s disposal of records in a landfill after he (Blackburn) came to the belief that Kelly had disposed of some prosecutor’s office records, which Kelly denies. The Messenger reported last year that Blackburn had asked the attorney generals office to investigate other matters involving the sheriff, including some state audit findings against Kelly.

In regard to the grand jury subpoena that Kelly received, the sheriff had this to say: “I would hope that they called me to testify to clear these things up, because I have done absolutely nothing wrong.”