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Judge: Clinton County sheriff can’t keep commissary cash

FRANKFORT, Ind. (WISH) — A judge’s ruling says that the Clinton County Sheriff Rich Kelly can’t keep the profits from jail commissary sales.

The ruling came months after the state ordered the Republican sheriff to pay $329,000 for the misuse of commissary money.  

The judge’s recent ruling says that Kelly can hire his wife as the jail matron, but the couple can’t pay themselves a separate salary from jail commissary profits.  

The case will go Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. The State Board of Accounts has asked that the sheriff make restitution of those funds, and it would be up to the the Republican attorney general to pursue that, says Alan Dunn, a Republican who is president of the Clinton County Council. 

Kelly and his wife had set up a private corporation called Leonne LLC to manage inmate commissary funds. The Clinton County commissioners say no contract was in place for the sheriff and his wife to operate the commissary.

A State Board of Accounts report found the Kellys pocketed close to $200,000.

I-Team 8 went to the sheriff’s office on Friday morning to ask him about the recent ruling, but the sheriff wasn’t available.

Jordan Brewer, a Republican who is president of the Clinton County Board of Commissioners, says the judge’s ruling offers a clear path forward. “The No. 1 thing is it justifies, 15 months ago when we took the injunctive relief action to look into commissary and we thought something was going on there that was suspicious,” Brewer said.  

The judge’s ruling does allow for the use of commissary money for certain personnel expenses to operate the sale of goods to inmates. How the profits are spent requires approval from the county.

Kelly does allow the sale of vaping products and tobacco pouches to inmates.

The sheriff and his wife both face felony charges of official misconduct and conflict of interest. The charges stem from the State Board of Accounts investigation. They pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this year.  

Kelly is running unopposed for the sheriff’s job in the Nov. 8 election.