Clinton County sheriff, wife charged with official misconduct after I-Team 8 report
FRANKFORT, Ind. (WISH) — Clinton County Sheriff Rich Kelly and his wife, Ashley Kelly, were charged Friday with three felony counts of official misconduct and a felony count of conflict of interest by a public servant, according to online court records.
The sheriff in a statement Friday night called the charges “nothing more than a political farse (sic)” and cited plans to maintain and improve the sheriff’s office.
The county commissioners, in a statement of their own Friday night, said, “This is a sad and unfortunate day for Clinton County.”
David Owen Thomas has been appointed to prosecute the cases, says Clinton County Prosecutor Anthony Somner, who had requested a special prosecutor.
Thomas told News 8 by email that he routinely declined to comment on cases he is prosecuting. He shared with News 8 the court documents that charge the Kellys.
The Kellys received money through the jail commissary profits above and beyond their salaries, court documents say. In 2019 and 2020, they earned nearly $640,000 in salaries, pensions, disability payments, and commissary receipts. The Indiana State Board of Accounts had made similar allegations.
I-Team 8 in November reported the Indiana State Board of Accounts ordered Richard L. “Rich” Kelly to repay $329,000 for the misuse of commissary funds. A 30-page report from the board says Kelly and his wife misused more than $200,000 of the profits from the inmate commissary. The board’s investigation began after the Clinton County commissioners noticed a large payment from the jail going to Leonne LLC. As outlined in the report, the sheriff and his wife managed Leonne LLC but, according to Clinton County Commissioner Jordan Brewer, did not have a contract with the county.
Court documents say Indiana State Police on Feb. 2 received reports of allegations of criminal activity by the Kellys. Ashley is a matron with the sheriff’s office, and supervised by her husband. The documents say the Kellys have failed to file written disclosure of their marriage since they are both employed in government jobs, which is required by Indiana’s law on conflict of interests.
Brewer, the Republican county commissioner who talked with I-Team 8 during its November report, said Friday that he’s not aware of changes that have been made to the commissary since the State Board of Accounts report.
Under Indiana law, coroners are the only officials who can arrest sheriffs. Clinton County Coroner Ed Cripe told News 8 by email, “I have just seen headlines that have been released. I have not been contacted in regards to anything.”
Online court documents did not show a lawyer for the Kellys or a future court date.
Rich Kelly and Mark A. Mitchell are candidates for sheriff in the May Republican primary.
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The sheriff sent a statement to news media on Friday night:
“Given the timeline of events, this is nothing more than a political farse. The items being contested are still in civil litigation in Tippecanoe County Court and are the same contained in the SBOA findings from last year and our subsequent response. My wife and I look forward to continuing our efforts to increase public safety with the hiring of new deputies and jail staff, made possible by the nearly $1,500,000 federal inmate project that we brought into the community in 2020. We plan on announcing our medical savings to the county of over $388,000 for 2021 in the next week. We also look forward to expanding our jail programs to a Jail Chemical Addiction Program (JCAP) that will incorporate more services to the recovery of inmates. We will continue our successful programs, saving taxpayers money, reducing recidivism and providing state of the art technology, equipment and training to all members of our agency.”
Clinton County Sheriff Rich Kelly
“This is a sad and unfortunate day for Clinton County. Nobody wants to wake up and face a day knowing that criminal charges have been filed against an elected official in the highest role of law enforcement within the community. We take these charges very seriously and are very concerned about the integrity of Clinton County.
“We also understand the criminal justice system and that individuals are innocent until proven guilty; however, these allegations are extremely serious and very disturbing for individuals that are still in their elected office and appointed position. We hope and pray that Clinton County will become stronger and more resilient from this dark day in our county’s history.”
Clinton County commissioners