Special prosecutor asks to delay Butler County auditor’s criminal trial

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds
Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds(Provided by Roger Reynolds)
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 6:34 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HAMILTON, Ohio (WXIX) - A special prosecutor for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office wants to delay Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds’ criminal trial until the fall.

It was supposed to begin on Aug. 15.

Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro filed a continuance motion Monday requesting a new trial date of no earlier than Oct. 31.

He is working on a trial in another part of the state that he hopes ends on July 29, his motion states, but “the litigation has rendered it impossible for the state to adequately prepare for the trial.”

A visiting judge who is overseeing the case has not issued an order on the request.

The case is being investigated by the sheriff’s office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ohio Ethics Commission.

It is being prosecuted in Butler County Common Pleas Court by the Special Prosecutions Section of the Attorney General’s Office.

Reynolds was indicted on his sixth public corruption-related charge nearly two weeks ago when a grand jury returned a superseding indictment against him that replaces the original one from February.

The new charge is related to accusations he used his elected office for personal gain involving Lakota Local Schools and Four Bridges Country Club.

On Monday, Reynolds’ attorney filed a written plea of not guilty on his behalf to his third charge of unlawful interest in a public contract, a felony.

His attorney also filed a waiver that Reynolds signed so Reynolds does not have to physically appear in court at his Aug. 3 arraignment.

The state was consulted and does not object to the arraignment happening without Reynolds there, court records show.

Reynolds, 52, of Liberty Township, is Butler County’s chief fiscal officer since 2008.

He remains free on his own recognizance on the original five charges: bribery, two counts of unlawful interest in a public contract, both felonies, and two misdemeanors: unlawful use of authority and conflict of interest.

He now faces a total of three felonies and three misdemeanors as the investigation - which was launched nearly a year ago after a FOX19 NOW story about Reynolds - continues.

Reynolds could serve up to 7.5 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.

The new allegation involves Lakota Local Schools between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 21, 2017, according to the sheriff and the indictment.

Reynolds and a group of people approached Lakota administrators in charge of money in an attempt to “coerce” the district into paying to build something for the Four Bridges Golf Course, the sheriff said in a news conference.

“It basically started with Roger Reynolds and a group of people approaching the Lakota Schools...the administrator, the people in charge of the money, and were basically talking about the money that (the auditor’s office) returned to the schools,” Jones said.

The state gives the auditor’s office money for calculating and distributing real estate taxes from levies to local governments. The auditor’s office doesn’t use all the real estate fee money so Reynolds returns millions to the community each year.

The auditor’s office is giving Lakota $500,367 in refunded fee money this year, and the district was set to receive $459,498 in 2017, according to a news release on auditor’s website.

“He made a recommendation and tried to coerce them into taking the money they were going receive,” the sheriff said at a news conference earlier this month, “and he tried to encourage them to build something for the Four Bridges golf course. It goes back to involving family members of Roger Reynolds and he’s also a member of Four Bridges Golf Club. He also lives at Four Bridges.”

Lakota Local Schools did not enter into any type of agreement with Reynolds, a district spokeswoman has repeatedly told FOX19 NOW: “This entire case involving Mr. Reynolds is incredibly unfortunate for the residents and taxpayers of Lakota and Butler County.”

Reynolds was unopposed in the May Republican primary and received the endorsement of the Butler County Republican Party in April despite the corruption charges.

He will face Democratic challenger Mike Dalesandro in the November election.

FOX19 NOW has a request for comment into Reynolds’ attorney.

We will update this story once we hear back.

When the new indictment was announced earlier this month, his attorney gave us the following statement:

“Like the original indictment, the allegations in the superseding indictment filed today against Mr. Reynolds are false. 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,” the statement reads.

“Though the superseding indictment provides no details about the added charge, we are aware of a public statement by Sheriff Jones claiming that the new charge relates to monies returned from the Auditor’s office to the Lakota Local School District. If that is true, the added charge is false and misplaced. Mr. Reynolds is proud that he has operated the Butler County Auditor’s Office with such fiscal responsibility that tax dollars can be returned to many local taxing districts, including the Lakota schools.

“Under Mr. Reynolds’ leadership, the Butler County Auditor’s Office has always followed the statutory requirements when returning unspent tax dollars. 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.”

Authorities 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 between Maud Hughes and Cincinnati Dayton roads as he facilitated the sale of his parents’ property into a $20 million senior residential complex.

He emailed and/or met with county and township officials to promote the detailed proposal, according to copies of emails and interviews we did last year.

A company that Reynolds is the agent of, Liberty Way Farms, also owns property along the road in that area, according to county and state records.

A special commission of retired judges appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court determined Reynolds should not be suspended from office amid his criminal case after Ohio Attorney General Yost requested following the first indictment.

There is a civil case that also is ongoing right now, filed before Reynolds was charged in February, with some corruption allegations that are now part of the criminal case.

The lawsuit names Reynolds, his Liberty Way Farms and others. It accuses Reynolds of bribery, tortious interference and ethics law violations.

The lead plaintiff is an 89-year-old landowner Gerald Parks who accuses Reynolds of using his position as county auditor to increase his property taxes and block the development of Parks’ property.

Parks claims in court records he’s lost three development contracts due to “tortious interference with him and his business dealings,” resulting in a loss of at least $1.3 million.

The case is scheduled for a jury trial in June 2023.

Reynolds also has denied all wrongdoing in the civil case, telling us when it was filed last year: “It appears Mr. Parks wants to add us to a long list of frivolous lawsuits he has filed over the years that includes suit against his own family. He’s making allegations that are absurd.”

Copyright 2022 WXIX. All rights reserved.