Updated Sun, Mar 30, 2014 5:34 am
Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly is claiming that more than $35,000 has been discovered missing at the sheriff’s office, and he’s implying that at least some of it was taken before he was sheriff.
Kelly — who by law will retain the title of sheriff even while suspended from office — mentioned the missing money in an e-mail he sent Wednesday to more than two dozen Ohio sheriffs.
“As you may have heard, I am not going to fight the decision by the Supreme Court’s commission to suspend me pending my trial,” Kelly wrote to the sheriffs.
“I would offer a few suggestions in my temporary absence.”
Kelly is facing 25 criminal charges in Athens County Common Pleas Court.
A committee appointed by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor ordered last week that Kelly be suspended from office while the case is pending.
First on his list of “suggestions” to the sheriffs is that they audit their concealed carry fund and also their BCI background fund, which is used to do background checks for concealed carry permits and other purposes.
“I had mine done and between 2004-2012, we are missing over $35,000,” Kelly wrote.
“Just a note. I was not sheriff between 2004 to 2009.”
Kelly further offers the help of the sheriff’s office fiscal officer and tells the sheriffs not to rely on the state auditor’s office because it audited the two funds in his office “and didn’t find it.”
The e-mail comes at a time when the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is investigating the concealed carry program at the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.
(None of the charges for which Kelly has been indicted involve either the concealed carry program or BCI background fund, according to an attorney general’s spokesman.)
Kelly was on the agenda of last Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting and, according to County Commission President Lenny Eliason, was going to ask the county to pay for a special audit of the concealed carry program, having told Eliason that money was missing.
However, Kelly opted not to come to the meeting.
Asked about that on Tuesday by The Messenger, Kelly declined comment.
“I can’t divulge the reason (for the planned meeting) because there is a gag order on me and my attorney advised me not to attend that meeting,” Kelly said.
A judge has imposed a gag order in Kelly’s criminal case.
His attorney, Brad Koffel, was cautioned by an assistant Ohio attorney general not to allow Kelly to go to the meeting and talk about the concealed carry program, according to an e-mail obtained by The Messenger.
Assistant Attorney General Melissa Schiffel, one of the prosecutors in Kelly’s criminal case, wrote Koffel that she and co-prosecutor Assistant Attorney General James Roberts had received word Monday that Kelly was going to the commissioners’ meeting to speak “regarding the ‘missing’ CCW funds.”
“In light of the grand jury subpoena requesting documentation related to the CCW funds and your client’s refusal to provide such records until after he was ordered to do so by the court, it must be clear to your client that this is subject of a BCI investigation,” Schiffel wrote.
“As such, we believe any public comments on this matter, including at a commission meeting, is an attempt to circumvent the ‘gag’ order imposed by the judge at our last pretrial.”
Schiffel asked Koffel to advise Kelly not to make a public statement to the county commissioners.
“Also, you have committed to provide my office with the documents that allegedly substantiate your client’s claim of missing money from the CCW,” Schiffel wrote.
“It would be in his best interest not to make any material misrepresentation of fact to the commissioners about the status of the CCW fund.
“Additionally, I do not believe we have yet received any of the documents your client claims substantiate missing money from the CCW fund,” she wrote. “Please advise when we can expect to receive those documents.”
County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, who was invited by Eliason to the meeting with Kelly that did not take place, was asked about it Tuesday by The Messenger.
Blackburn told The Messenger that Kelly contacted his office about what Blackburn described as “questions and concerns” regarding the sheriff’s concealed carry program.
Blackburn said his office advised Kelly to contact BCI about the matter.
Blackburn noted that BCI has apparently already been looking into the concealed carry program — as evidenced by the fact that the attorney general’s office had subpoenaed records about it from the sheriff’s office.
Also, since Kelly was supposedly going to ask the commissioners for a special audit, Blackburn noted that BCI has its own certified accountants.
Blackburn said Kelly approached the prosecutor’s office about the concealed carry program on March 6.
As for the e-mail Kelly sent to the other sheriffs with “suggestions,” Kelly also addressed one of the criminal charges against him — a felony charge of failure to keep a cash book for recording any money he received as sheriff.
“If you are not keeping a cash book, do so,” Kelly advised the other sheriffs.
“While we did keep a cash book, (Attorney General Mike) Dewine charged me because we computerized ours.”
He also suggested that the sheriffs force the state auditor’s office to define what is and is not acceptable regarding Furtherance of Justice funds that sheriff’s offices receive.
Kelly was hit with a state audit finding for his handling of FOJ in 2011.
Although he sent the e-mail to more than two dozen sheriffs, he asked them to pass it along because he didn’t have the e-mail addresses of Ohio’s other sheriffs.