County Commission Scheduled To Replace Pat Kelly As Sheriff

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UPDATE 1:15 p.m. Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly confirmed Wednesday morning that he will not contest his suspension from office while a criminal case is pending against him.

"After consulting with my attorney Brad Koffel, I have decided not to contest the preliminary suspension recommended by the commission appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court," Kelly said in a written statement. "This is a difficult decision, but I want to spend the time necessary to prepare for my September case."

Kelly is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 29 in Athens County Common Pleas Court on 23 felony charges and two misdemeanor charges.

"…I do not want to distract from the mission and vision of the office I love so much and the fine men and women of the Athens County Sheriff's Office," Kelly's statement continued. "I have full confidence in my staff and employees that they will continue at the same high level of professionalism and dedication during my absence."

The Athens County Commissioners will hold a special meeting Thursday to select a temporary sheriff for the county

UPDATE 11:00 a.m. The Athens County Commissioners will hold a special meeting Thursday to select a temporary sheriff for the county should Sheriff Patrick Kelly be suspended from duty.

The meeting was scheduled after Kelly reportedly indicated to a Democratic Party official that he is not going to contest a suspension from office while a criminal case is pending against him.

County Commission President Lenny Eliason said Wednesday morning that the county commissioners have not received official word of Kelly's suspension, but the meeting of the commissioners was scheduled based on information received from Athens County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Hecht.

Hecht told The Messenger that Kelly contacted her Tuesday afternoon and told her he was not going to contest a suspension from at special commission appointed by Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor to consider whether he should be suspended while a criminal case is pending against him.

According to Hecht, Kelly told her that Wednesday, March 26, would be his final day in the office before the suspension begins. Hecht said Kelly indicated he would use the time off to work on his case.

Hecht said that based on that information, she contacted Julia Michael Scott, chairwoman of the Athens County Democratic Central Committee. Hecht said that Scott has scheduled a meeting of the committee for April 8 at 6 p.m. The person named as temporary sheriff by the Athens County Commissioners would serve until the Central Committee names a temporary sheriff. Kelly is a Democrat.

According to a news release from the Athens County Commissioners' office, the county commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday in their meeting room at 15 S. Court St.

Hecht said that two people have expressed an interest in being appointed by the Democratic Party to the temporary position. They are former sheriff's lieutenant Rodney Smith and current sheriff's Detective Lt. Jack Taylor.

Kelly is facing 23 felony charges and two misdemeanor counts related to allegations of theft in office, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and money laundering, among others.

After the sheriff was indicted, Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine requested that Kelly be suspended from duty for the duration of the case. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor appointed a special commission to consider the matter.

The Athens County Commission has scheduled a special session for Thursday at 10 a.m. to select a replacement for Sheriff Pat Kelly.

The suspension of Kelly comes after a grand jury brought a 25 count indictment against him on January 31. 

That indictment includes 23 felony counts with one of them theft in office.

In an email release to the media Wednesday morning the Athens County Commission said the purpose of the meeting is to select a temporary replacement for the Sheriff.

The notice ended with "This appoint[ment] will last from the time of the suspension of the Sheriff until the Athens County Democratic Central Committee meets to select a replacement."

Kelly has maintained his innocence says the grand jury proceedings and the subsequent indictment were politically motivated.