Butler County auditor ‘shall not be suspended from public office’: Supreme Court commission
HAMILTON, Ohio (WXIX) - Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds will not be suspended from office despite his recent indictment on felony corruption charges related to elected position, a special commission for the Ohio Supreme Court determined.
“The Special Commission finds that Mr. Reynolds’ actions, as set forth in the charges, are not sufficiently related to the performance and duties of his office so as to warrant suspension,” the panel’s decision states.
“There is an insufficient nexus between the alleged acts in the Attorney General’s request for suspension and the functionality of the Butler County Auditor’s office. The Special Commission determines that Mr. Reynolds’ continued administration of and conduct in his public office, as covered by the charges pending against him, does not adversely affect the functioning of his office and the rights and interests of the public. Accordingly, Mr. Reynolds shall not be suspended from public office.”
FOX19 NOW requested comments from Reynolds’ attorney and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Reynolds’ attorney issued the following statement:
“We are pleased that the State’s attempt to use false and legally insufficient criminal allegations to remove Auditor Reynolds from his duly-elected position has failed. Not only are the charges against Mr. Reynolds false, but as the Special Commission recognized, the allegations do not involve the Auditor’s office or Mr. Reynolds’ work as the Auditor.
“Auditor Reynolds is focused on his commitment to providing quality services and his continued fight to keep spending and taxes low for the taxpayers of Butler County. We again ask that the community not rush to judgment in this matter, and we look forward to proving Mr. Reynolds’ innocence at the upcoming trial.”
Steve Irwin, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said “We believe the panel got it wrong but respect their decision. When the full case is presented to the jury, the defendant’s misconduct in office will be obvious.”
Reynolds, Butler County’s chief financial officer since 2008, was indicted last month on a total of five charges for allegedly using his elected position for personal gain.
Bribery is a third-degree felony with a possible maximum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Reynolds also is charged with unlawful interest in a public contract, unlawful use of authority and conflict of interest. The other two felonies are fourth-degree charges.
He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on his own recognizance.
Reynolds, 52, of Liberty Township, faces up to seven years in prison if convicted on all charges.
He continues to serve as the county auditor and collect his $108,362 annual salary.
Reynolds is running for re-election and will face fellow Republican West Chester Township Fiscal Officer Bruce Jones in the May primary
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office initiated suspension proceedings on Reynolds last month by sending his indictment and detailed records outlining the allegations against him to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The request said Reynolds “cannot be left to continue to exercise the rights and privileges as the Butler County Auditor while under criminal indictment for misusing the authority of that very office. Further, Reynolds’ efforts to unlawfully influence public contracts for his own pecuniary gain erodes trust and confidence in the Butler County government as a whole,” according to court records.
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Reynolds late last summer after FOX19 NOW reported he was seeking - at times using his county elected office email account - more than $1 million in public money for road improvements on Hamilton Mason Road near Maud Hughes Road as he facilitated the sale of his parents’ property into a $20 million senior residential complex.
The road improvements are needed before the project, called “Red Oak,” can proceed in West Chester Township.
Reynolds alleges the criminal case against him is the state’s punishment because he is challenging a mandated property value increase.
“Mr. Reynolds has never solicited, accepted, or paid any bribes, and he has never used his position, authority or influence to improperly benefit himself or anyone else,” his attorney, Chad Ziepfel said in a statement in February when Reynolds was indicted.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has called for Reynolds to resign and said Tuesday he still thinks Reynolds should step down.
The sheriff’s office is still investigating, interviewing people, “looking into a lot of issues and gathering documents,” he told FOX19 NOW, declining to elaborate.
“The panel did their job to decide if he should be suspended or not, it doesn’t have anything to do with the validity of the charges,” the sheriff said. “Nothing. Zero.”
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