State Rejects Sheriff’s Domestic Violence Grant Citing Other Audit Findings

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An application for a grant to fund the domestic violence advocate position at the Athens County Sheriff’s Office has been turned down by the state, which is citing prior audit findings in other areas of the sheriff’s office as the reason.

Sheriff Patrick Kelly called the reason he believes the grant was denied “disheartening.”

The sheriff’s office had applied for $40,679 through a grant program administered by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“It’s disheartening to think that the attorney general would take his personal feelings for me out on the victims of domestic violence in Athens County,” Kelly said. “I can only assume that the reason that (Attorney General) Mike DeWine did not give us the grant is personal.”

Allegations involving Kelly have been under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, part of the attorney general’s office. Kelly has said the investigation is politically motivated on DeWine’s part, but DeWine has called that “absurd.”

Jill Del Greco, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, told The Messenger that in addition to judging grant applications on their merits, financial records are also reviewed “as part of due diligence … to ensure the security of federal and state funds.”

In the case of government applicants, the most-recent state audit is reviewed.

“Particular attention is paid to applicants who have had findings for recovery that may indicate noncompliant or inappropriate activities,” Del Greco said in an e-mail to The Messenger. “We have attached the 2012 auditors report for Athens County that shows that the Athens County Sheriff’s Office had issues of noncompliance that were related to other existing grant funds, therefore the grant application for new funds from the AGO (attorney general’s office) was denied.”

As The Messenger previously reported, the audit included findings for recovery of $5,475 against Kelly and a total of $263 against two of his employees. The findings relate to the sheriff’s office’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund and Mandatory Drug Fine Fund, not the domestic violence advocate.

The largest finding was for $5,226 the audit says was illegally spent out of the the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, but Kelly has asserted that the money was spent from that fund (rather than the Furtherance of Justice Fund) because that’s what state auditors previously told the sheriff’s office to do.

Kelly said that he still hopes that funding can be found to retain the domestic violence advocate. He said the advocate position is important, and he does not want to do away with it.

“That would be the last resort, to lay her off,” Kelly said.

He said there is another grant application pending, and the county should have word by November on whether it has been approved. He said he believes funding can be found to keep the advocate working through October.

The grant — if it had been approved — would have started Oct. 1, Kelly said.

Sheriff’s Office Fiscal Officer Dawn Deputy is scheduled to meet with the county commissioners at their next meeting, which is Wednesday, and Kelly said the situation with the advocate funding will be discussed.

The person serving as advocate is Stacey Crook. According to the sheriff’s office website, she works with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She can provide immediate crisis intervention, photograph physical injuries, assist victims with writing impact statements, help victims get out of abusive relationships, help them get protection orders and accompany them through the court process, according to the description on the website.

Kelly said she works with victims in both misdemeanor and felony cases.