No jail time for former Butler County official who pleaded guilty in corruption case
BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - A longtime Butler County elected official who stepped down and pleaded guilty in a public corruption case won’t serve any jail time.
Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Stephens sentenced former Madison Township Trustee Alan Daniel on Monday to three years probation, a $2,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service.
Prosecutor Mike Gmoser insisted Daniel, 76, resign before pleading guilty last month to two misdemeanor charges of use of influence as a public official or employee to secure anything of value.
In exchange, prosecutors dropped five of the seven total charges Daniel was indicted on last year including all three felony counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and two additional misdemeanors.
Daniel could have been put in prison for up to five years if he was convicted on all counts and received maximum sentences.
Daniel admitted to casting illegal votes both as an elected township trustee and as a longtime appointed member of Butler County Board of Zoning Appeals, court records show.
“When you use your elected position for personal gain, you will get exposed and convicted,” Sheriff Richard Jones said Monday.
He “regrets his vote,” Daniel’s attorney, Christopher Pagan, wrote in a sentencing memo to the court. “It diminished public confidence in government.”
His attorney had requested a fine and the suspended jail sentence, saying those “are the appropriate sanctions.”
Daniel’s “lifetime of public service shows contributions to the community - not that he requires incarceration or supervision to protect him from the community,” his attorney wrote in the presentencing memo. “Moreover, resigning from public office is punishment and a sufficient consequence for the harm to public confidence he caused.”
His attorney also submitted five character letters to the judge on Daniel’s behalf from “fellow public servants, parishioners and community members.”
That includes former Butler County Commissioner Chuck Furmon, a retired Hamilton police officer who wrote in his letter: “I have the highest regard for Alan Daniel and I am honored to call him my friend.”
Daniel was a Madison Township for more than 20 years and also served on Butler County’s Emergency Management (EMA) Board for more than two decades, court records show.
He was elected a Madison Township trustee in 1995 and won his seat every four years since, according to the Butler County Board of Elections.
He also served on the Butler County Board of Zoning appeals for several years.
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Ethics Commission began investigating him in the summer of 2021.
The sheriff’s office received an anonymous tip about corruption, according to court records and the sheriff’s incident report. Daniel admitted wrongdoing almost immediately to both the sheriff’s office and Ohio Ethics Commission, court records show.
The Ohio Ethics Commission made a referral for criminal prosecution to the prosecutor’s office in September 2022.
Gmoser immediately the case to a grand jury and personally presented it, along with Assistant Prosecutor Garrett Baker, who handles corruption and scam cases.
According to Daniel’s indictment, his votes on both boards ran afoul of the law starting around December 2016 and lasted until February 2021.
All except one of the misdemeanor charges relate to Daniel taking action and/or voting as a township trustee for matters that benefited him personally and/or a member of his family, including raises for his son and signing his timesheet, court records show.
His son is Madison Township’s road superintendent.
Illegally voting for pay raises for his son is one of the counts he was convicted of.
The other is the more high-profile action Daniel took that resulted in a Dollar General store being permitted right next to homes and a complaint to the sheriff’s office that sparked the criminal investigation. It also got Daniel and the county sued in federal court.
Daniel admitted to casting an illegal vote as a member of the BZA in February 2021.
Daniel and two other members of the BZA unanimously voted to grant several zoning variances to permit a Dollar General store to go on land that he personally held the mortgage to at the time, county court and land records show.
Daniel’s son, Todd Daniel, owned the property and, at one point previously, father and son both jointly owned it, according to county property records.
Ohio law prohibits public officials from taking any official action on matters they and/or their relatives directly benefit from.
“I really shouldn’t vote. I don’t vote on things that get me into trouble... and dumb, dumb me, voted,” Daniel admitted to it in a June 10, 2021 phone call with Butler County Sheriff’s Office Detective Daniel Turner, according to the “State’s Answer to Request for Discovery.”
Daniel also “self-reported” himself to the Ohio Ethics Commission, it states.
Despite that, Daniel kept serving on both boards.
Before Daniel was criminally charged, he abruptly quit the BZA in October 2021.
Residents who were upset about the Dollar General store development complained to county officials and county prosecutors.
They insisted Butler County Commissioners schedule a hearing to consider asking for Daniel’s resignation in light of allegations against him.
They also filed a federal lawsuit to try to reverse the vote.
The lawsuit ultimately failed because the 30-day appeal period for the BZA vote passed before residents realized what was going on and contacted the county.
Daniel pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance in September after he was indicted.
He was allowed to remain free on his own recognizance and remain in public office as a township trustee through the rest of the year.
Gmoser has said Daniel’s conduct regarding the land issue was prosecuted to the highest criminal charge possible, a misdemeanor.
“The salary issues were done in plain sight and he accepted full responsibility,” Gmoser said last month.
Daniel’s attorney unsuccessfully attempted to get some of the charges dropped on a claim the statute of limitation has passed.
Prosecutors countered that elected officials in Ohio can be charged at any time during their tenure and up to two years after they leave office.
One of the families who live near the Dollar General store still refuses to shop there because they remain so upset over the whole ordeal.
The store opened in June 2022 with an eight-foot-high white vinyl fence on a couple of sides to separate it from adjacent homes.
Karen and Bret Frank attended all of Daniel’s court appearances and were there again on Monday. She said they were disappointed most of the charges were dropped.
They wrote the judge a letter urging him not to grant leniency to Daniel in light of his admitted abuse of his power as a public servant.
“Mr. Daniel should take heed to the judge’s words that he was forced to resign from his public service positions and this is a disgrace and should be humbling,” Karen Frank told FOX19 NOW Monday. “We are glad this is over and we can move on and relocate outside of Butler County.”
Madison Township’s former administrator, Todd Farler, sent an email to the judge’s staff describing Daniel as manipulative and having an “unscrupulous political prowess.”
Daniel is the second elected official in the county who was indicted on public corruption charges last year.
The county auditor, Roger Reynolds, 53, left office in late December after he was convicted of a felony charge of unlawful interest in a public contract.
Reynolds, the county auditor since 2008, was accused by the state of using his public office for personal gain for himself and his family.
The jury deliberated for about eight hours on Dec. 21, 2022, before returning the single guilty verdict and acquitting him on the remaining four charges, including bribery.
The judge rejected Reynolds’ requests for acquittal and more recently, for a new trial.
Prosecutors are calling for jail time when he is sentenced on March 31.
Reynolds faces six to 18 months of incarceration and/or probation.
He also could be ordered to pay up to a $5,000 fine.
The judge also has the option to suspend the jail sentence and put Reynolds on probation just as Judge Stephens did Monday in Daniel’s case.
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