Sheriff Smith Added to Lawsuit

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Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith has been added as a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by a former deputy sheriff.

The Athens Messenger previously reported that an attorney representing former sheriff’s deputy Shannon Sheridan filed a motion in U.S. District Court  to add Smith to a lawsuit Sheridan filed last year against then-sheriff Patrick Kelly.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers has approved the request.

Smith, in his official capacity of sheriff, is replacing Kelly in that capacity in the lawsuit. When the lawsuit was filed in 2014, Sheridan sued Kelly in his official capacity as sheriff and as an individual. Kelly remains a defendant as an individual.

Deavers ordered Sheridan to file an amended complaint that reflects the addition of Smith and the fact that Kelly remains a defendant.

Smith was appointed sheriff by the Athens County Democratic Central Committee after Kelly was convicted of felonies and lost the sheriff’s job.

Sheridan claims in the lawsuit that he was unlawfully fired by Kelly in retaliation for telling voters that Kelly lacked the ethical and moral standards to be sheriff. Sheridan asserts that his free speech rights were violated.

Sheridan was fired by Kelly in 2012 based on allegations of insubordination and sexual harassment. The State Personnel Board of Review ordered Sheridan reinstated, but Smith later fired Sheridan again. The federal lawsuit, as it now stands, does not deal with the topic of the Smith firing.