New Sheriff Asks to Be Part of Lawsuit

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Even before he took the oath of office Monday to officially become Athens County sheriff, court papers were filed in an attempt to add Rodney Smith to a federal lawsuit.

An attorney representing former sheriff’s deputy Shannon Sheridan filed a motion in U.S. District Court on Friday to add Smith to a lawsuit Sheridan filed last year against then-sheriff Patrick Kelly.

Sheridan claims in the lawsuit that he was unlawfully fired by Kelly in retaliation for exercising his free speech. Sheridan was fired in 2012 based on accusations of insubordination and sexual harassment, although Sheridan claims in his federal lawsuit it was because Sheridan told voters that Kelly lacked the ethical and moral standards to be sheriff.

Because Kelly is no longer sheriff, Sheridan is seeking to substitute Smith for Kelly in the lawsuit. Smith, who has been serving as acting sheriff, took the oath of office Monday afternoon after being officially appointed sheriff last week by the county Democratic Party.

Kelly was sued in both his official and individual capacities. The motion, if granted, would substitute Smith for Kelly as the defendant sheriff. Kelly, as an individual, would remain a defendant.

After Kelly fired Sheridan, the State Personnel Board of Review ordered Sheridan reinstated. Smith, while holding the temporary position of sheriff, fired Sheridan again, but that firing is not a topic of the federal lawsuit.