Butler County asked to remove elected official from zoning board amid corruption probe
HAMILTON, Ohio (WXIX) - Butler County Commissioners are expected to hold a hearing soon to consider removing a longtime member of the county’s board of zoning appeals at the insistence of some residents amid a corruption investigation.
Butler County Zoning Board of Appeals Member Alan Daniel voted Feb. 16 to pass five variances for property in Madison Township owned by his son, Todd Daniel, according to the meeting minutes and a recording of the meeting posted on the county’s website.
The land is located on the corner of Keister and Middletown German roads. Plans call for it to be commercially developed into a Family Dollar or Dollar General store.
Father and son purchased the property together for $87,500 on Oct. 29, 2004, according to the Butler County Recorder’s Office.
Alan Daniel gave his share of the land to his son for $36,000 in January 2013, property appraisal and recorder records show. His wife released all her dower rights to the property.
Other records filed in January 2013 at the recorder’s office show Alan Daniel holds the mortgage for $36,000, plus interest.
That mortgage remains active and open today, according to Butler County Deputy Recorder Denise Goll.
“Alan Daniel would be considered the “bank”. That mortgage has not been released,” she said this week when we checked to make sure the mortgage was still in his name and in effect for the property.
That same record also shows Todd Daniel’s wife “of said mortgagor releases to Mortgagee all rights of dower in the above described property.”
Daniel was appointed to the zoning appeals board in February 1995. It’s an unpaid, volunteer position.
That’s also the year he was elected trustee in Madison Township, according to the Butler County Board of Elections. He’s won his seat every four years ever since.
The township’s website states he served 14 years on the Madison Local School Board, including 10 years on the Butler County Joint Vocational School Board.
FOX19 NOW reached out to Alan Daniel for comment Thursday. He firmly responded “No” when we asked if he was going to quit. He declined further comment.
His son works for the township as the road superintendent/cemetery sexton, according to the township’s website.
Todd Daniel has worked for Madison Township for 27 years, including 22 as the road superintendent.
We left messages seeking comment at Madison Township for Todd Daniel both Thursday and Friday but did not hear back.
In July, he told us:
“I am confident that the investigation is being undertaken by people that are qualified to do it. That’s really all I have to say. If there’s anything that went on there, they will figure it out. It’s all being investigated. We’ll let people do what they have to do, and we’ll do what we do.”
Madison Township resident Bret Frank filed the formal complaint about Alan Daniel that prompted the county under state law to schedule a hearing to considering removing him from the board of zoning appeals. Two other families signed the complaint.
No action has been taken to remove him from the Madison Township trustee board.
“Mr. Daniel exploited his position and intentionally chose to participate in the zoning variance process with obvious knowledge of this conflict. His actions damaged the integrity of the process and the work content of the BZA,” Frank said when he appeared in person before County Commissioners on Sept. 13.
Frank said he has been raising concerns to county officials about this since April, but feels no one is doing anything.
“On May 3, Mr. David Fehr, Butler County Director of Development, handed to me, in this room, BZA public records which confirmed that Alan Daniel influenced, participated and voted on a variance request for two properties in which he held the mortgage at the time and is owned by his son. This was clearly a conflict of interest on Alan Daniel’s part,” Frank said in his remarks to commissioners.
“It is also likely that the applicant was aware of this conflict as they were in negotiations to purchase the properties from Alan Daniel’s son. Alan Daniel’s actions to approve the variances significantly increased the value of the properties by allowing these changes to permit the construction of a corporate retail store, thus benefitting him and his family. If Mr. Daniel had recused himself, the records show that there would not have been enough BZA members present to meet the quorum requirements.”
Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson said he personally directed Frank to the Ohio Ethics Commission website and told him how to file a complaint as a citizen.
“I had early conversations with Mr. Frank in which I explained to him where and how to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission and told him with regard to matters involving the BZA I could not give him legal advice, he would have to contact his own legal counsel.”
Frank declined comment when we asked if he filed a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation in July after receiving an anonymous “public complaint” on June 7 alleging “Bribery-Corrupt Public Servant/Party Official,” according to a sheriff’s report.
“The complainant stated that on 2-16-2021, a member of the Butler County Board of Zoning Appeals voted on a variance for a piece of property owned by a relative and that board member could have benefited financially from the incident.”
The victim in the alleged crime is listed as “Society,” according to the report.
A suspect is listed on the report, but sheriff’s officials blocked that person’s name out on the copy of the incident report released to FOX19 NOW in a public records request.
No one has been charged, according to the report.
The sheriff’s office is not commenting on the investigation because it remains ongoing, said Sgt. Kim Peters, agency spokeswoman.
Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser has said he was not confirming or denying anything and declined comment.
The Ohio Ethics Commission has said they could not confirm or deny any allegations or investigative activity.
“Under state law, the only investigative documents that are public record are settlement agreements,” said Susan Willeke, the commission’s education and communications administrator.
The Ohio Ethics Commission website states:
“Remember, public servants may NOT take any action in matters that definitely and directly affect themselves, their family members, or their business associates.”
It also states:
“When someone in public service is confronted with a conflict of interest, he or she must completely abstain from making decisions about or influencing how the matter is resolved.”
See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please include the title when you click here to report it.
Copyright 2021 WXIX. All rights reserved.