Records Culled From Landfill In Kelly Case Causing Concerns For County

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Athens County officials are trying to figure out what to do with some smelly — and possibly contaminated — records that were recovered from a landfill during the investigation of former sheriff Patrick Kelly.

In 2013, records disposed of in the Athens-Hocking Reclamation Landfill by then-sheriff Patrick Kelly were dug up as part of the investigation of Kelly. The records have been in the custody of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and in storage in Hocking County.

Now that Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced March 20 on 18 felony charges — none of them records-related — the question has arisen over what to do with the records.

They can’t be tossed back into the landfill because there are specific rules for what records can be disposed of and when. County officials also are uncertain whether the records have been microfilmed, although Kelly testified at his trial that he did not dispose of any records that had not been microfilmed.

“I think we’re obligated to look through (them) and make sure those records have been microfilmed and at least documented properly,” Acting Sheriff Rodney Smith said during a meeting Thursday with the county commissioners about the records.

Smith said he’s not sure if any of the records are from the prosecutor’s office, but has been told most of them are sheriff’s office files.

“Also, I’ve been advised that there’s no rhyme or reason, they go from 2008 to different years and there’s really no structure to what year they are, so it’s going to have to be looked at pretty closely,” Smith said.

Smith said the Ohio Attorney General’s Office will likely stop paying the storage bill after Kelly is sentenced. Smith said the records are too smelly to take to the county records center in Athens, so he recommended Thursday that the county pay for storage until it can be determined what to do with the records.

However, there is concerned that the documents might also be contaminated and pose a health hazard.

Commission President Lenny Eliason asked if there are companies that treat records.

“We’ve been looking at that, I think it’s going to be expensive — I’m not sure, but we’re trying to find some place that could clean them up,” Smith responded.

“Well, unfortunately, we have to have an inventory of what’s out there,” Eliason said, “so we can dispose of what’s legally disposable.”

Assistant County Prosecutor John Haseley said a company that cleans records has warned that they could be highly toxic, and that even after cleaned they might pose a hazard to someone with asthma or a compromised immune system.

Haseley said such companies tend to charge by the square foot, and it’s estimated that there are 350 cubic square feet of records in storage. One company that’s been contacted could only clean them at its facility in Texas.

“This could be a significant thing we may be looking at, we don’t know that yet,” Haseley said. “We’re just trying to get more information.”

Smith said it might be possible to have people wearing breathing apparatus — the type used in meth lab investigations — do a preliminary examination of the records to assess the situation.

A consultant who monitors the county’s closed landfill on Route 691 happened to be at Thursday’s meeting and said it might just be a mold problem and only a particulate mask would be needed to go through the records. He said air monitoring could be done to determine the nature of the contamination and the level of protection needed.

Commissioner President Lenny Eliason said that may be the best first step and asked the consultant to provide a cost estimate.

“What a mess,” Commissioner Charlie Adkins commented at one point during the meeting.

During his trial, Kelly was accused of obstructing official business by taking more than nine tons of records to the landfill at a time when he was under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. It was alleged that Kelly destroyed the records to obstruct the investigation, however the jury found Kelly innocent of the charge.