Athens County Sheriff Responds To DeWine’s Motion To Suspend Him

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Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly has submitted a 15-page letter to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine emphasizing his refusal to voluntarily submit to a suspension from office.

DeWine’s office has asked for Kelly’s suspension pending the course of his case involving 25 criminal charges which includes, among others, theft in office, failure to maintain a cash book and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

“Your agents havemade allegations of thefts, corruptions, enterprises and dereliction of duties, a smokescreen of allegations your staff have used to divert the attention from the true reason for this investigation,” Kelly wrote in the letter.

“I am not guilty of these allegations and there has been no attempt to commit a criminal act,” he added.

On Feb. 4, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a request with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court to ask that she commence proceedings to suspend Kelly while the criminal case is pending, according to previous Messenger reporting.

“If the credibility of the sheriff and the sheriff’s office is called into question because the sitting sheriff is under indictment for multiple felonies, including perjury, this could cause serious issues in the administration of justice in Athens County,” the request stated.

Kelly called the allegation that he had shown a pattern of corrupt activity and engaged in a criminal enterprise with Pearl Graham “completely false,” along with the claim that a personal account was used for money laundering.

Graham is a member of the sheriff’s Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) program who “volunteered his time and truck to haul a couple truck loads of old metal that had accumulated over decades at the county garage to McKee’s Salvage Yard,” according to Kelly.

Included with the letter was a document dated June 19, 2013, which stated that on May 11, 2013, Graham received $50 for “gas money to haul junk” to McKee’s from a garage located at the Athens County Fairgrounds. The document has signatures for Graham and Kelly.

Throughout the letter, Kelly explains that documentation for the allegations was provided to investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation during the execution of search warrants.

“Your agents executed two search warrants based on misleading information to a common pleas judge,” Kelly wrote. “The evidence did not change.”

In regards to the allegation of monies missing from a cash box, which Kelly states related to the use of and compensation of a confidential informant, he said the release of the names put “many unsuspecting citizens in harm’s way.”

The confidential informant was a former law enforcement officer, Kelly said, and state audits documented the payment history of the informant.

Kelly goes on to claim that the investigation against him compromised the names of four local figures that had been previously held in confidence.

“I find it suspect that there was no mention of the BCI agent assigned to your Athens office in the release of names subpoenaed in 2013 that my office and at least one other agency had received information on in 2009-2011 that related to possible criminal information,” Kelly wrote to DeWine. “You, your attorneys and especially your agents were aware my office were collecting information on a member of BCI.”

Also attached to the letter was a Settlement Agreement and Repayment Plan addressed to the Ohio State Auditor’s Office and signed Dec. 5, 2012, by Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason, Athens County

Prosecutor Keller Blackburn and Kelly. The agreement states that $14,392 was paid into the Furtherance of Justice (FOJ) Fund when it should have gone to the Athens County General Fund.

“Whereas, Patrick Kelly … does not admit, and expressly denies, the accuracy of the finding and/or that he violated any contract, rule or law with respect to the finding …,” the document states.

But Kelly signed the document agreeing to repay the FOJ fund in two payments in November 2012 and January 2013.

On July 31, 2013, Kelly sent a letter to the state auditor’s office expressing a desire to work with the auditor “in correcting any problems involving our audits.”

He also claimed the “same past accounting practices used by many sheriffs before me” had been used by Kelly and “were never documented as an issue until 2011.”

In further explanation, Kelly references purchasing two suits “to be used in my capacity as Sheriff” for $600. When he was told the money could not be taken out of the FOJ account, Kelly said he wrote a personal check to the county for the suits.

The accusation involving theft of wire taken from the county garage was also misleading, Kelly said. The wire was never entered into evidence and “sat at the fairground garage since 2007,” Kelly said.

A statement by Lt. John Morris, who accompanied BCI agents and members of the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office to the county garage, stated that the spool of wire agents were investigating was hidden behind other items in the garage, some of which was property of the 911 Communication Center.

The wire — that Kelly and Morris both say was to be entered into evidence by then-Deputy Shannon Sheridan — was never included in the report when it was seized.

BCI Agent Kevin Cooper claimed “drag marks” were present, proving the wire had recently been moved, but the claim was “proven to be false by Assistant Prosecutor (Michael) Prisley because Prisley watched (Cooper) make those marks as they were removing … 911 consoles from around the big spool of wire,” Morris wrote.

In the last response presented by Kelly, he said BCI agents were aware that the sheriff’s office maintained “a number” of cash books “as well as utilizing 21st century” technology to document transactions.

O’Connor announced Wednesday morning the appointment of a three-judge commission to consider Kelly’s suspension. According to Ohio law, the commission must review all documents from the case and make a preliminary determination within 14 days as to whether Kelly should be suspended.