Sheriff Sells Scraps, State Officials Investigate

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Two employees of an Athens-area scrap metal business have been subpoenaed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to appear before a grand jury Friday, The Athens Messenger reports.

State officials have not said what the grand jury, which also met June 6 and 7 in Athens, is considering, but have acknowledged that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation has been investigating allegations relating to Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly. BCI is part of the attorney general’s office.

Kelly said Thursday that there is “no impropriety” regarding the sale of scrap by the sheriff’s office to the scrap metal business.

“I don’t know who is spoon-feeding all this stuff (to The Messenger), but they need to stop,” Kelly said, adding that BCI is just covering its bases. Kelly also said he thinks release of the information is politically motivated.

The Messenger has chosen not to publicly identify the scrap metal business in this article, but the owner said two of his employees have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury Friday. Both employees have also told The Messenger they were subpoenaed.

In addition, one of the subpoenaed employees said that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office obtained records of a May 11 transaction in which Kelly sold scrap at the business. The employee would not disclose to The Messenger the dollar amount of the sale without Kelly’s permission.

The Messenger has also learned that state agents have been looking at a pay-in from the sheriff’s office to the county general fund. On June 13, $389.85 was paid into the general fund and the pay-in form says the money is from the “sale of scrap metal.”

According to Kelly, two loads of old filing cabinets, cruiser cages, desks and other items were taken to the scrap yard from a building located near the fairgrounds that the sheriff’s office uses. He said space was being cleared so that vehicles stored at the location could be moved inside the building prior to the start of the county fair this summer.

Kelly said the $389.85 pay-in to the county general fund was for the sale of that junk.

Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson confirmed that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office obtained a copy of the pay-in form.

According to county procedures, once the pay-in form is filed with the auditor’s office, the actual payment is made at the Athens County Treasurer’s Office.

An employee of the treasurer’s office told The Messenger that two special agents from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Greg Burri and Kevin Cooper, questioned her about the pay-in, asking if it was made in cash, by check or a combination of both. They were told it was a cash payment, she said.

An employee of the scrap metal business said it pays for scrap with cash.

The Messenger examined all pay-in forms submitted to the auditor’s office by the sheriff’s office since May 1. They all give a description of the source of the money, but only one — the June 13 pay-in — lists scrap metal sale as the source.

Burri is the same agent who made a public records request last month of the Athens County Records Commission for documents relating to records retention and disposal by the sheriff’s office. Among the records being sought were all requests by the sheriff, or his designee, to dispose of records. The commission responded that there were no such requests.

Members of the commission have told The Messenger that Kelly failed to file a required form before disposing of records last month. Kelly has told The Messenger that he disposed of documents — and other unneeded items — to make space at the sheriff’s office, and that all records destroyed had already been microfilmed.

County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn has said he believes the sheriff’s office also disposed of records belonging to the prosecutor’s office, which Kelly has denied. Blackburn has confirmed he asked the attorney general’s office to look into the matter.

One of the people who testified before the grand jury earlier this month was an employee of the county engineer’s office who transported items — including records — to a landfill for the sheriff’s office.

An assistant Ohio attorney general, while not saying what the grand jury has been considering, confirmed earlier this month that BCI has been allegations involving Kelly, including an assault complaint, state audit findings and destruction of county records — all of which had been reported by the news media already.

Kelly was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, and on June 7 went into the area where the grand jury was meeting for about 10 minutes. That evening, BCI agents executed search warrants at the sheriff’s office, Kelly’s home and other locations.