Sheriff Answers Questions About School Resource Officer

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Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly has responded to concerns the county commissioners raised about a proposed contract with Nelsonville-York Schools, but whether his answers are enough to let the contract move forward remains to be seen.

Nelsonville-York School District wants to contract with the sheriff’s office to provide a school resource officer, with the sheriff’s office hiring the person and the school district reimbursing salary costs.

When the contract came up for approval Aug. 6, the commissioners raised questions and Kelly asked them to provide him a list of their concerns.

On Friday afternoon, Kelly e-mailed the commissioners his responses.

Kelly had earlier indicated he would provide a car and equipment for the resource officer, but Commissioner Lenny Eliason said the county should be reimbursed 55.5 cents per mile.

Kelly, in Friday’s response, said the school resource officer will be using his own car, “thus eliminating this issue.” He also said the officer has his own supplies and equipment, and that the school would provide some.

Although Duane Covert, the candidate for the job, is waiving health insurance, Eliason told Kelly the matter should be specifically addressed in the contract, as should unemployment compensation after the contract ends.

In his response, Kelly said the school attorneys are satisfied with the current contract language, but he asks Eliason if he wants to suggest additional wording.

Eliason also said the school district should pay in advance, a quarter at a time, and Kelly responded that the school district would be agreeable.

Eliason also wanted to know if it will be a union position, if the person will only work during the school year and whether there is a job description.

Kelly responded that it’s not a union position, and the person would work the same schedule as the school.

“We have applied for a (school resource officer) grant and that position, if funded, would become union based on the availability and length of grant,” Kelly wrote.

The proposed contract includes a section titled “role of officer” that outlines duties.

“The job description is in the duties of the SRO,” Kelly responded to Eliason. “I am satisfied with those descriptions as is the (school) superintendent.”

In an Aug. 12 letter to Kelly, Adkins reiterated that he supports Nelsonville-York having a school resource officer, but added that if the county does it for one school district if should be prepared to do it for others.

“… This could have a significant financial impact to the taxpayers of Athens County,” Adkins asserted. Adkins said he believes the school district should hire the person, with the sheriff providing a law enforcement commission.

However, if the resource officer is to be a sheriff’s employee, then provisions of an Ohio law listing costs to be paid by a contracting agency (the school district) should be included in the contract, Adkins said. The code also calls for a special fund to receive the payments.

Kelly, in his response, noted that only Nelsonville-York has requested a resource officer, but that he is “fully prepared” to accomodate any Athens County school.

As for the Ohio Revised Code section cited by Adkins, Kelly wrote, “The ORC section number is law and is implied.”

Contacted Friday afternoon, Adkins was not prepared to say if Kelly’s response answered his concerns.

“I just want to review it a little more,” Adkins said, but added he is concerned about Kelly’s use of the word “implied.”

Citing his past experience as a union contract negotiator, Adkins said, “Too much language doesn’t hurt, not enough language seems to hurt.”

Eliason said he had not yet seen Kelly’s response.

“If he’s responded, we’ll deal with it next Tuesday (during our meeting),” Eliason said.