Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Chief Justice Appoints Commission to Consider Athens County Sheriff Suspension

After waiting the required 14 days, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor today appointed a special three-judge commission to consider the suspension of Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly who’s been charged with felonies relating to official conduct in office.

On February 4, the Ohio Attorney General filed an action at the Ohio Supreme Court to commence the suspension proceedings.

Ohio Revised Code section 3.16 spells out the process for such actions and establishes that the commission must include retired judges or justices, one of whom must be of the same political party as the public official.

The retired judges named to the commission are:

  • Retired Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge John F. Bender.
  • Retired Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge Neal B. Bronson.
  • Retired Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge Jennifer L. Sargus.

Within 14 days, the special commission must make a preliminary determination about whether Kelly should be suspended from office. Kelly may contest the preliminary determination – if it recommends a suspension – within 14 days of being notified and appear at a commission meeting to present his case. That meeting must be held within 14 days of the notice by Kelly to contest the preliminary findings. At the conclusion of the meeting, the special commission would then issue its final determination and issue a written report.

Pursuant to R.C. 3.16(C)(2), “all meetings of the special commission shall be closed to the public” and “the records of the special commission shall not be made available to the public for inspection or copying until the special commission issues its written report.”

R.C. 3.16 most recently was used in November 2013 when a special prosecutor for the Ohio State Auditor asked the Chief Justice to begin suspension proceedings against Fairfield County Clerk of Courts Deborah K. Smalley, who was indicted on felony charges of misspending public money for political purposes.

In that case, Chief Justice O’Connor appointed a panel to consider the suspension, but Smalley resigned on December 5 before the panel issued its findings.

The case announcement announcing the appointment of the special three-judge commission in In re Kelly is available online.

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