Commissioners testify to sheriff’s illegal disposal of county records

When Athens County Commissioner Charlie Adkins took the stand during suspended Sheriff Pat Kelly’s trial Monday, he told the jury of a statement Kelly had made to him in May 2013:

“I wish people would just leave me alone.”

Kelly said those words to him, Adkins told the jury, after Adkins discovered jail trusties allegedly disposing of county records for the sheriff at the Athens County Sheriff’s Office May 20.

Adkins told the jury that Commissioner Lenny Eliason brought the situation to his attention that day.

Eliason, Adkins and fellow commissioner Chris Chmiel descended from their offices, 15 S. Court St., and were greeted by a county dump truck in the alleyway between the sheriff’s office and the courthouse.

Eliason and Chmiel left soon after, Adkins said, leading him to approach the trusties, truck driver and Kelly.

Two trusties from the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail were loading county records into the truck, which they told Adkins were destined to reach a landfill later that afternoon.

The county employee behind the wheel of that truck, Geoff Moore, told the jury that was the seventh truckload of county property he had been asked to dispose of that month.

But that particular load didn’t reach the landfill, Moore said in his testimony. The commissioners instructed him to instead leave the truck’s contents at the county garage on Lancaster Street.

Moore said he moved anything from old office furniture to “several hundred” boxes of papers for Kelly.

Those trips amounted to more than nine tons of county property — not including the load intercepted by the commissioners — according to the landfill weight slips that were procured by the state and presented as evidence.

Adkins said that after discovering the truck, he made a call to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. Blackburn and Adkins then confronted Kelly in his office.

“I had to make sure county property was not being disposed of illegally,” Adkins said.

At that time, Kelly said all the proper paperwork had been completed to dispose of the records.

Assistant Ohio Attorney General James C. Roberts proceeded to show the jury video surveillance of the trusties tossing boxes and equipment into the dump truck while Kelly watched.

Tammi Goeglein, an executive assistant with the Athens County Auditor’s Office, testified Monday that Kelly’s scheduled time to dispose of those records was not approved until July 2013.

Eliason later told the jury he had made it clear during an email conversation with Kelly that all disposal of county property was to be approved first by the commissioners.

In his testimony, Eliason also told the jury about the county vehicles Kelly had allegedly disposed of and scrapped without going through the correct legal procedures.

In order for those vehicles — or any county property valued at or above $5,000 — to be disposed of, Eliason said it would have to be declared surplus by the commissioners, who would then approve the property for sale.

Witness testimony Monday ranged from the alleged misuse of county funds on Kelly’s part to the illegal disposal of county records, with Blackburn taking the stand just before 9:30 a.m.

Roberts began his examination by asking Blackburn about allegations that Kelly had misused money within the department’s Furtherance of Justice Fund, Law Enforcement Trust Fund and Mandatory Drug Fund.

Those funds are composed of tax money set aside by commissioners for the use of the prosecutor and sheriff’s office, Blackburn said. The FOJ fund within the sheriff’s office was granted about $31,000.

Blackburn said he had received tips alleging that Kelly had used the county money to purchase suits from Men’s Wearhouse and meals outside of the county.

Blackburn also told the jury he was at the sheriff’s office when Kelly allegedly attempted to dispose of the county records kept at the department.

He told the jury he had received calls regarding the dump truck that day from the county engineer’s office.

After speaking with Adkins, Blackburn said, he called a meeting with Kelly to determine whether the records had been properly disposed of. Kelly told Blackburn that he had submitted the correct forms.

Kelly later told Blackburn he did not have permission to destroy the records.

Blackburn also told the jury about his previous friendship with Kelly, whom he said supported him as he ran for office. The two had developed a friendship that lead to them golfing on various occasions and going out for coffee.

“From the time I was assistant prosecutor, I would have considered Pat a friend,” Blackburn said.



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