Commissioners Postpone Discussion on Recouping Former Sheriff’s Pay

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The Athens County Commissioners want clarification of a state law before deciding whether to pursue the salary paid to former sheriff Patrick Kelly while he was under suspension awaiting trial.

What they want clarified is whether more than just salary could potentially be recouped.

Kelly was convicted last week in Athens County Common Pleas Court of 18 felony counts, including multiple counts of theft in office. The state statute under which Kelly was suspended while awaiting trial also states that while suspended Kelly retained the title of sheriff and was entitled to continue to receive “compensation.” It also indicates that upon conviction the county could file a civil action to recover that “compensation.”

Eliason said the commissioners need clarification on whether compensation means just salary, or also includes the cost to the county of benefits such as health insurance and contributions to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

Eliason said County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn will be asked for clarification.

The Athens County Auditor’s Office told The Messenger last week that Kelly was paid $57,588 while under suspension, although a small percentage of that was reimbursed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which is a normal procedure.

Eliason said the commissioners need to know specifically how much of the salary money came from the county.

He said discussion on whether to try to recoup the compensation will take place at the commissioners’ meeting next week.

“We have a few issues to figure out first,” Eliason said.

Commissioner Charlie Adkins said the commissioners will need to weigh the cost of a civil action versus the likelihood of recovering the compensation that was provided to Kelly.

Blackburn told The Messenger last week that the county could not go after Kelly’s pension to recover the compensation Kelly received while on under suspension.

However, Kelly’s pension could come into play regarding restitution the court orders in the criminal case.

The theft in office statute says the judge “shall” require restitution for “all of the property or the service that is the subject of the offense…” The statute also provides a procedure for going after pension money to pay that restitution.

Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced March 20.