Athens County Sheriff Accused of Misusing Public Funds
Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly has used taxpayer funds for hundreds of dollars in personal expenditures, according to a report from Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. Kelly, a Democrat, is seeking reelection on November 6 against Republican Steve Kane.
Investigators in Yost’s office found that Kelly made “unallowed” or “unsupported” expenditures including suits from Men’s Wearhouse and meals at a local Ponderosa Steakhouse. Kelly repaid $600 spent on “suits, suit jackets and tailoring” into the Athens County Furtherance of Justice (FOJ) fund after being questioned by the auditor’s office.
“We recommend the Sheriff ensure his purchases follow both his internal control policies and the Ohio Revised Code,” the auditor’s report stated after noting that Kelly had repaid the $600 improperly spent from the FOJ fund.
Kelly was also instructed to repay an additional $813 to the Athens County Mandatory Drug Fine Fund. “Our review of the items purchased by the Sheriff using cash drawn from the Mandatory Drug Fine Fund resulted in the following purchases that were unallowable, unsupported/inadequately supported, as well as one personal purchase,” the auditor’s report explained before listing the relevant expenditures.
Beyond the total of $1,413 Kelly has been asked to pay back to Athens County as a result of the state audit, the sheriff was instructed to stop making numerous disallowed deposits and expenditures from the county’s FOJ fund. Kelly explained the incorrect deposits and expenditures by writing, in part, “It has been the past practice of this office for many years prior to my taking office to reimburse the FOJ for expenditures. Right or wrong it has been the practice. I am using the same practice that has been used by the Athens County Sheriffs Office dating back to the 1980′s.”
Kelly has claimed the state auditor’s report was “suspect,” suggesting that Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson – a Republican – may have manipulated Yost’s office into delaying the reports release.
On October 4, Kelly issued a written statement claiming that “it is suspect that a practice used by sheriffs for over 20 years now becomes an issue 30 days before an election.” Kelly also complained that “the expenditures have never been questioned until now, with no warning or guidance from the state auditor,” The Athens Messenger reported.
Kelly, when asked by reporters if he suspected that political motives behind the regularly yearly audit, replied, “is this politics? Doggone right its politicsJill Thompson at her best.” However, he told The Messenger, “I think Dave Yost is an honorable person.”
Thompson denied Kellys allegations of manipulation, and Auditor Yost’s public information officer Michael Maurer called Kelly’s assertion “disappointing.”
“People who have findings, including politicians, will sometimes attribute motives to others,” Maurer added.
A June Dayton Daily News investigation revealed that incidental spending accounts for local governments were often illegally used as personal slush funds by Ohio sheriffs and other officials. In the past, two Ohio sheriffs have stepped down in response to such allegations.
In March 2012, Ottawa County sheriff Robert Bratton, a Democrat, spent $7,200 in taxpayer money on Cedar Point tickets, haircuts, new shoes, designer belt buckles, and cigars. One month later, Delaware County Walter Davis resigned when it was revealed that he used taxpayer funds to pay for romantic breakfast dates with a female subordinate.