Liberty Township trustee dismissed from bribery lawsuit
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - Liberty Township Trustee Tom Farrell was dismissed Tuesday from a bribery lawsuit filed against him, Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds and others by an 88-year-old West Chester landowner.
Gerald Parks claimed in court records Reynolds used his elected position to increase his property taxes and block the development of his land.
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.
In addition to Reynolds and Farrell, Parks’ lawsuit also names Buck Rumpke, a member of the county’s planning and zoning commission.
Now, Farrell was abruptly dropped from the suit in a court filing Tuesday afternoon.
The court document does not explain why Farrell is dismissed from the case.
It is a voluntary dismissal from the lawsuit without prejudice, which means Farrell can be brought back into it anytime.
FOX19 NOW reached out to Parks’ attorney, Chip Goff, who told us: “Tom Farrell is not the defendant to focus on at this time,” and declined further comment.
Farrell issued a statement through his lawyer:
“My dismissal from Gerald Parks’ lawsuit against Roger Reynolds confirms what I have said from the beginning: that I did not engage in any illegal or unethical behavior. The case was voluntarily dismissed after the facts came out. The Dismissal was not a result of a settlement agreement, and I will not be paying any remuneration to the Plaintiffs.”
The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard by a jury at a trial in June 2023.
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Reynolds in late August after FOX19 NOW reported Reynolds 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 were needed before the project, called “Red Oak,” could proceed.
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.
Reynolds’ direct involvement to obtain this public contract broke the law, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which joined the sheriff’s investigation in September 2021 and assigned a special prosecutor to oversee it.
Reynolds has since been indicted on six public corruption charges, some of which mirror allegations in the lawsuit: three counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and one count each of bribery, unlawful use of authority and conflict of interest.
Five of the charges came out of an indictment in February, and a new, superseding indictment last month included another, sixth charge.
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Reynolds’ criminal trial was set to begin later this month, on Aug. 15.
The special prosecutor, however, wrote in court record he was busy on another trial until the end of July. He asked the visiting judge to push the trial back to at least Oct. 31.
The judge is expected on Wednesday morning to set the new trial date when Reynolds is arraigned on his latest corruption-related charge.
Reynolds already pleaded not guilty to the original five charges.
Last week, his criminal attorney filed a written plea of not guilty on his behalf in the latest one.
He faces up to 7.5 years in prison if convicted on all six charges, three felonies and three misdemeanors.
His attorney also filed a waiver that Reynolds signed so he could avoid physically coming into court Wednesday.
The state was consulted and does not object to the arraignment happening without Reynolds there, court records show.
He remains free on his own recognizance, continues to serve as the county auditor and collects a salary that the county treasurer says will be $108,362 this year.
Reynolds was unopposed in the May 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.
When he was indicted again last month, his lawyer released the following statement on his behalf:
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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