Home Politics Attempted Sabotage Sullies County Engineer’s First Days

Attempted Sabotage Sullies County Engineer’s First Days

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When describing your first day on the job, “problematic” is never the initial word you want to come to mind; however, it seemed to be the only word that fit the description for Athens County’s newest engineer when he began on Jan. 7.

Upon taking office earlier this month, newly elected Athens County Engineer Jeff Maiden discovered several public records deleted, missing and in disarray in what he believes is part of a sabotage attempt by the previous administration.

Maiden replaced long-time county engineer Archie Stanley after an overwhelming victory in a bitterly fought Democratic primary last March. Because Maiden ran uncontested in the general election, his successful defeat of Stanley secured his current position.

After assuming his new position, Maiden quickly found that employees under the previous administration had left things as difficult as possible for him. According to his report to The Athens NEWS, most of the files had been removed from the work area of the payroll department, which Maiden said had been run by Kathy Canterbury, wife of Stanley’s deputy engineer Mike Canterbury.

“A lot of the files had been removed from the cabinets and put in boxes,” Maiden told The NEWS. “The basic stuff related to payroll was thrown into boxes, about 18 boxes (and then hidden away in a separate building’s warehouse area).”

The discovery of the tampered files came about when Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson sent Maiden a letter on Jan. 7 requesting documentation for fringe benefit payouts for five employees who either resigned, retired or were terminated when Maiden took office.

Maiden found that the information on the five employees – Mike and Kathy Canterbury, Paula Blauser, Mitchell Brunton and John King – had been deleted from the computerized master payroll; all other employees’ records were still available. Maiden told The NEWS that with regard to missing employment records and files for workers who had been at the county Engineer’s Office for decades, he referred the matter to Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly.

“We spent most of last week going through (all the boxes),” he told The NEWS. “And then when we went to the computers, we found that there were hardly any documents remaining on them.”

The payroll documents have since been recovered, but Maiden said his office is still working through the files, which include documents such as time cards and written records. Athens County Commissioner Charlie Adkins said Maiden has enlisted the help of Michele Williams, who works at the Engineer’s Office.

“We’re missing a lot of information we think should be here,” Maiden told The NEWS. “I think destruction of public records is potentially a crime so it’s been reported to the Sheriff’s Office, and it’s an active investigation.”

When asked if there was an investigation underway, Sheriff Pat Kelly redirected The New Political to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, who declined to comment any further than the status of the investigation.

“This matter has been investigated and remains under that status,” Blackburn wrote in an email.

In addition to the missing documents, more than a dozen Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded projects formerly headed by Mike Canterbury were likewise stashed away in the warehouse and have been on standby since the primary election, according to Maiden.

Though the reported 15 projects should have been making progress throughout 2012, Maiden said the last documented project activity was in July, shortly after he defeated Stanley in the election. The projects amount to about $1.7 million in FEMA funding and were initially approved in 2011.

“After the election, they didn’t do any of them,” Maiden told The NEWS. “It’s for landslides, slip repair, and some pretty serious projects… Essentially no work was done on them last year, so we’re going to do them this year.”

According to Commissioner Adkins, Maiden was able to identify projects that had end dates that would have hurt the county financially and obtain extensions on them. Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel, who praised Maiden’s “good job” of working on the situation, confirmed the extension.

Although this is the first time that something of this degree has happened in Athens County, it has happened in other counties around the state of Ohio, according to Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason.

“We had a case four years ago in Washington County when one of the commissioners left office,” he said. “He erased his computer and took all the records, and he was prosecuted for that.”

The county commissioners are not directly involved in the case as all departments within the county have freedom from oversight, but all three men showed unanimous support for Maiden and his staff for their hard work throughout this case.

“We are assisting (Maiden) in any way we can to help him get through the transition and help him get off to take care of business he has to take care of,” Eliason said.

“I support Jeff Maiden to the fullest,” Adkins said. “Anything I can do to help him move this county forward, I will do.”

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