Madison Township trustee pleads not guilty to 7 public corruption charges

Madison Township trustee pleads not guilty to 7 public corruption charges
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 11:13 AM EDT

BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - A longtime Butler County elected official facing seven public corruption charges pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance in the case Monday.

A grand jury indicted Madison Township Trustee Alan Daniel last week on three felony counts of having an unlawful interest in a public contract and four misdemeanor charges of using or authorizing the use of the authority or influence of office to secure anything of value.

The 76-year-old has been a township trustee for nearly three decades. He said he didn’t know he was indicted until FOX19 NOW called him for comment, which he declined.

Daniel will remain free on his own recognizance, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens ruled.

He will return to court on Dec. 12, after his attorney, Chris Pagan of Middletown, reviews the evidence against him.

Daniel was not physically arrested following his indictment.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office served him with a summons to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Monday before Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Stephens.

Daniel will be required to submit a DNA sample since he is charged with felony crimes, according to state law.

He also will be fingerprinted and photographed Monday at the courthouse.

If Daniel is found guilty on all counts and sentenced concurrently, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison, according to the prosecutor.

Daniel has been under criminal investigation for more than a year as both a township trustee and member of the Butler County Board of Zoning Appeals. He abruptly quit in October 2021 after residents filed a federal lawsuit and demanded Butler County Commissioners hold a hearing to consider asking for his resignation in light of allegations against him.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office began investigating in July 2021 after receiving an anonymous complaint and sent the case to the Ohio Ethics Commission for review. The commission recently made a referral for criminal charges to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser took it to a grand jury and personally presented it, along with Assistant Prosecutor Garrett Baker, who handles corruption and scam cases.

All of the charges occurred from December 2016 through February 2021, according to Daniel’s indictment.

All except one of the misdemeanors relate to Daniel taking action and/orvoting as a township trustee for matters that benefited him personally and/or a member of his family, including raises for his son, Todd Daniel and signing his timesheet, FOX19 NOW has learned.

The fourth misdemeanor count is due to Daniel casting what two federal courts have since described as an “illegal” and “corrupt” vote on Feb. 16, 2021, as a member of the county’s BZA board.

The vote granted several variances to permit a Dollar General store at the corner of Keister and Middletown Germantown roads.

Alan Daniel held the mortgage to the property at the time and his son owned the land, county and federal records show.

Sheriff Jones told us last week his office is continuing to investigate other votes by Daniel and a former township trustee, Thomas Hall, who is now a state representative. Hall’s father is the Madison Township fire chief.

If Daniel is found guilty on all counts and sentenced concurrently, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison, according to the prosecutor.

This is the second elected official in Butler County indicted on public corruption charges this year.

The county auditor, Roger Reynolds, has pleaded not guilty to six public corruption charges now related to his position.

He was indicted on five charges in February and re-indicted with a sixth charge being added in July.

Reynolds, 52, also faces a civil suit that has several similar allegations to the criminal case, court records show.

Reynolds’ criminal case also involves the Ohio Ethics Commission, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

A special prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.

He continues to work in his elected position and receives his annual salary, which the county treasurer says will be $108,362 this year.

Daniel was elected a Madison Township trustee in 1995 and won his seat every four years since, according to the Butler County Board of Elections. Before that, he also served on a school board, his son has told FOX19 NOW.

On Nov 20, 2020, CD DG Germantown LLC contracted to build a Dollar General store on the property and entered a lease agreement to operate it. The agreement included a liquidated damages provision requiring Germantown to pay $897.60 daily for each day after Jan. 13, 2022, that the property was not delivered to the tenant.

Germantown sought five variances from the BZA:

  • Reduction in parking spots
  • An allowance for no more than 10% of the parking to be in front of the store
  • Waiver of a setback requirement for the parking lot
  • Waiver of the setback requirement for the front of the store
  • Permission to erect a privacy fence in lieu of required landscaping.

Daniel, despite having an obvious financial interest in the property, played a key role in determining whether the exceptions to the county’s zoning code would be allowed to permit the store.

The night of the vote, he was needed to be the third vote to have a quorum. Rather than recuse himself, he deliberated and then voted on the variances with the other two BZA members who were present.

Madison Township residents who live near the store sued Butler County, the BZA, and Daniel in his official and personal capacities.

The developer intervened and ultimately prevailed, along with the county and BZA, which also opposed an injunction being granted.

The residents are still understandably bitter over a recently lost court battle to try to overturn the vote, one that cost Karen and Bret Frank more than $4,000, according to invoices from their attorney.

They refuse to shop at the store.

The Franks and their lawyer say they repeatedly contacted the prosecutor’s office and asked for the vote be rescinded and re-held without Daniel due to his obvious conflict of interest.

They also tried to convince commissioners to do something they say, to no avail.

The zoning process for the store was legally handled according to the zoning laws, despite the “corrupt” process, two federal court decisions state, as well as the prosecutor’s office’s response to the lawsuit.

The couple learned the store was coming to their street in late March 2021, which is after the county’s 30-day appeal period had ended

The county only mailed notices about the BZA vote to property owners who live within 200 feet, they say, so they didn’t receive one.

The residents officially dropped their lawsuit on Wednesday, the same day Daniel was indicted.

They are shocked now the illegal vote Daniel cast that brought the store against their wishes quantified as only a single misdemeanor charge.

The Frank family spent a total of $4,201 on legal fees related to the litigation, according to copies of invoices they shared with us.

They said the county and developer refused to give them any money to reimburse them for their expenses because the zoning process was legal.

Daniel’s indictment on the misdemeanor charge now, after they begged the county to take more immediate action sooner last year that may have kept the store from their street, doesn’t impress them much.

The top two officials at the prosecutor’s office, Prosecutor Mike Gmoser and Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson, chief of the civil division, and the county’s director of development, David Fehr “are no heroes to us,” Karen Frank said in an interview Saturday at their kitchen table.

“They can talk a big game about how they got their man with Alan Daniel, but I really feel that he is the scapegoat for the county.”

FOX19 NOW noticed a retention pond with standing water mostly covered by a green substance behind the store on the southwest corner of Middletown Germantown and Keister roads. It’s not immediately clear how deep the water is or what is covering most of the top of the water.

We reached out to township and county officials and will update this story once we hear back.