Democrats To Vote On Interim Sheriff

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A interim Athens County sheriff is to be selected Tuesday evening by the Athens County Democratic Central Committee to serve while a criminal case is pending against suspended Sheriff Patrick Kelly.

Whether the committee selects the same person the Athens County Commissioners picked as acting interim sheriff remains to be seen.

On March 27, the commissioners selected former sheriff's lieutenant Rodney Smith to serve as acting interim sheriff until the Democratic Party could act. After that vote was taken, the other person seeking the appointment, sheriff's Lt. Detective Jack Taylor, said he would still pursue the Central Committee appointment.

The Democrats make the decision on the interim sheriff because Kelly is a Democrat.

Kelly was suspended from office by a special commission appointed by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. Kelly has pleaded innocent in Athens County Common Pleas Court to 23 felony charges and two misdemeanor counts.

Athens County Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Hecht said that both Smith and Taylor have written letters to Central Committee members about the appointment. Hecht said she's heard that the candidates, or people supporting them, also have contacted committee members.

"That's politics," Hecht said.

No other candidates have come forward, according to Hecht.

Hecht is a member of of the Central Committee, but will not be in charge of Tuesday's meeting. That task will fall to committee Chairwoman Julia Michael Scott, former county recorder.

"We'll give each candidate an opportunity to speak," Scott said.

The selection will be made by written ballot.

"It will be a public ballot, actually," Scott said, noting that those voting will be required to put their name on their ballot.

The person selected by the Central Committee will serve either until Kelly is found innocent and returns to office, or Kelly resigns or is convicted and the elected position of sheriff officially becomes vacant. At that point, a temporary sheriff would again be appointed until an election is held.

Another possibility — although remote — is that Kelly's criminal case drags on through the regular sheriff's elections in 2016 and the person selected by the Democrats on Tuesday continues to serve until a sheriff is elected.