Investigators Question Scrapping Of Sheriff’s Office Truck

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State investigators have been making inquiries about the scrapping of an Athens County Sheriff’s Office truck.

Sheriff Patrick Kelly told The Messenger he spoke about it Thursday with agents of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. Also, it appears that agents have taken copies of paperwork related to the truck from the Athens County Commissioners office.

The truck involved was donated by Heiner’s to the sheriff’s office for $1 in 2009 for use as a command vehicle by the office’s Narcotics Enforcement Team, according to Kelly. However, he said it was determined that the truck was not suitable for that purpose and would be too expensive to use, so it was scrapped at McKee’s Auto Parts and Recyclers in 2009.

Asked what happened to the money received for sale of the truck as scrap, Kelly said it was “deposited to the sheriff’s office.”

County Commissioner Lenny Eliason said proper procedure for disposing of county property is to first have it declared surplus by the commissioners.

Last month, Kelly sent a letter to the commissioners asking them to declare the truck surplus, which they did.

The letter was prompted at that time because McKee’s wanted the title.

However, Kelly said he notified the commissioners in 2009 of his desire to scrap the truck. Kelly said he has been looking for, but as of Thursday afternoon had not found, a copy the 2009 letter to the commissioners. The commissioners told The Messenger they have no such letter in their files.

In March of 2009, Kelly did send a letter to the commissioners about the disposal of some vehicles, but the truck was not among them.

The Messenger made public records requests of the commissioners, asking to see the originals of the title for the truck and last month’s letter asking that the vehicle be declared surplus.

Commissioners Clerk JoAnn Sikorski responded that she no longer had the title and that it had been turned over to the “proper agency,” but she declined to elaborate. She said the sheriff’s letter was with the title.

BCI agents were seen at the commissioners office earlier this week.

A photocopy of the title indicates that the truck had 441,395 miles on it when it was acquired by the county. An odometer certification on the back requires the owner of the vehicle (the county commissioners) to certify the mileage on the truck at the time of transfer and indicates that providing false information “may result in fines and/or imprisonment.” The mileage at the time of transfer is listed as 189,453 on the title. The back of the title was notarized July 25.

The 189,453 number was provided by Kelly, according to the commissioners office.

Kelly told The Messenger that the commissioners office contacted him for the mileage number and he provided it. Kelly indicated he didn’t know the actual mileage.

Kelly told The Messenger he has provided BCI with a list of vehicles disposed of by the sheriff’s office. In addition to scrapping vehicles, the sheriff’s office takes vehicles that have been forfeited in criminal cases and trades them to local car dealers for undercover cars.

“I am working with the two agents to determine which vehicles were salvaged or traded for undercover cars,” Kelly said.

It is believed that a grand jury convened in Athens County by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has been looking into a May sale of scrap items by Kelly.

The Messenger reported previously that BCI agents obtained records from a local scrap yard about a May 11 sale of scrap. Agents also questioned an employee of the Athens County Treasurer’s Office about the June 13 pay-in by the sheriff’s office to the treasurer’s office of $389.85 from the sale of scrap.

In June, employees of the scrap yard and a man who transported the scrap to the scrap yard on May 11 appeared before the grand jury. The grand jury met on three days in June, and is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 20.

Kelly has said there was nothing improper about the May 11 sale.