Investigation Into Deputy Still Ongoing

By
Susan Tebben - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Wed, Sep 3, 2014 9:36 am

Officials from an outside agency have visited the Athens County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an investigation into a deputy, although the nature of the investigation is still unknown.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that an investigation was being conducted regarding one of its deputies, but has not confirmed any other details.

Last week, Athens County Interim Sheriff Rodney Smith responded to an open records request by The Messenger inquiring about the employment status of Deputy Shannon Sheridan.

“(The Athens County Sheriff’s Office) policy is we cannot release any information on our employees while there is an ongoing investigation,” the response read.

When asked on Tuesday whether he could confirm or deny that Sheridan had been put on administrative leave or suspension, Smith told The Messenger that his legal counsel — Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn — advised him not to comment until the investigation had been completed.

Contacted Tuesday, Sheridan said he could neither confirm nor deny an investigation and refused to answer any questions citing orders by Smith that all media inquiries go through the sheriff.

Smith said in order to protect the integrity of the investigation and to protect the deputy from outside scrutiny before the investigation was complete, he would not divulge the nature of the investigation or the possible outcomes for the deputy.

Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen confirmed that his office had sent a sergeant to Athens County to conduct the investigation, but also would not discuss the details of the investigation.

A Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office vehicle was seen parked at the Athens County office Tuesday afternoon. A timeline on when the investigation would be completed was not officially released by Smith or Phalen.

When asked about the investigation, Blackburn also declined to comment, saying he was not aware of the status of any investigation within the sheriff’s office involving Sheridan.

The Messenger filed a public records request with Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson on Friday asking if the sheriff’s office had requested that payment to any deputy be terminated. Thompson responded the same day to the request, saying no request had been made.

On Tuesday, the same request was made to Thompson, who said the office still had not received any such request. She said it would likely not show up until payroll was submitted by the department for the next pay period.

Sheridan was reinstated by the sheriff’s office four months ago, after the State Board of Personnel Review ordered that he be given his job back. The deputy was fired by Sheriff Patrick Kelly after accusations of sexual harassment and insubordination were leveled against him, according to previous Messenger reporting.

He appealed his termination to the state board one week after his firing and the sheriff’s office was appealing the ruling when Smith was appointed sheriff due to the suspension of Kelly. Smith dropped the appeal and an agreement was negotiated between the sheriff’s office and Sheridan.

The negotiation included a “Last Chance Agreement” that reportedly said that any infraction by Sheridan would lead to his termination.

 

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