BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) — There are three new developments in Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds’ indictment following a public corruption investigation.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office is expected to send a copy of Reynolds’ indictment to the Ohio Supreme Court “to initiate suspension proceedings against a public official who has been charged with a felony in state or federal court when the felony is related to the performance of the official’s duties.
Reynolds’ attorney, however, told FOX19 NOW “We will challenge the suspension. Not only are the allegations false, they do not implicate the auditor’s office or Mr. Reynolds’ work as an auditor. We hope that the community will not rush to trial this case and will wait for the full story to come out at trial.
Reynolds, 52, of Liberty Township, is charged with three felonies, including bribery and two misdemeanors, for allegedly using his position for personal gain, the attorney general’s office said.
State law allows the Ohio attorney general to petition the state’s highest court to suspend local officials accused of crimes related to their official duties.
The Ohio Supreme Court is appointing three retired justices to review the facts and they can suspend officials while the criminal case progresses through the court system.
Suspended public officials can still receive their taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits.
Reynolds was paid $106,498 last year and is expected to earn $108,362 this year, according to the Butler County Treasurer’s Office.
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office began investigating in late August after FOX19 NOW reported that Reynolds was seeking — sometimes using his elected county office’s email account — more than $1 million in public funds for the improving the roads on Hamilton Mason Road as he facilitated the sale of his parents. ‘ property in a $20 million seniors’ residential complex.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office joined the case, and the Ohio Ethics Commission also became involved.
If convicted, Reynolds faces a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison and thousands in fines.
Reynolds, a Republican who has served as the county auditor since 2008, was scheduled to appear in Butler County Common Pleas Court next week, Feb. 17 at 1 p.m., court records show.
His criminal attorney, Chad Ziepfel, said: “Mr. Reynolds never solicited, accepted or paid bribes, and he never used his position, authority or influence to improperly benefit himself or someone else.
“Mr. Reynolds has served the community of Butler County with honor for the past 19 years, without even a hint of impropriety. He is proud to reform the Court of Auditors, restore the trust of citizens and fight for fair real estate appraisals.
“Mr. Reynolds will vigorously defend himself against these charges and looks forward to continuing in public service for years to come.”
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones told a news conference Wednesday that the investigation is continuing and Reynolds should resign immediately.
“Being charged, I don’t know how you stay in office with these charges and manage the county’s money and real estate and he’s being charged with these dealings and what he’s already admitted to the media, helping his family and his father.”
The investigation revolves around Reynolds’ actions regarding the development on Hamilton Mason Road between the Cincinnati Dayton and Maud Hughes roads.
There are also allegations in a civil lawsuit that he tried to corruptly control development on Hamilton Mason Road.
He and his parents have ties to several acres of land on Hamilton Mason Road, according to property and recorder records.
His parents and/or a company they own own several parcels of land, and Reynolds’ Liberty Way Farms LLC is the owner of land near Maud-Hughes Road that he purchased from his parents in 2020, according to the property records.
In other new developments Thursday:
- A spokeswoman for the state auditor’s office told FOX19 NOW they are aware of the reports regarding Reynolds and will “consider the information” during the county’s regular financial audit, which is ongoing in this moment.
- Taxpayers will not fund Reynolds’ criminal defense, according to Butler County Chief Assistant District Attorney Dan Ferguson. But county taxpayers shelled out the $100,000 insurance deductible to defend Reynolds in the civil lawsuit that Sheriff Richard Jones revealed this week is at least partially related to Reynolds’ criminal case.
At a press conference Wednesday, the sheriff called lead plaintiff Gerald Parks, an 88-year-old neighbor of Reynolds, “one of the victims.”
Parks has lived next door to Reynolds’ parents for decades and also owns a separate piece of land nearby that he is trying to develop.
Parks, his daughter and his attorney claimed in an interview with FOX19 NOW late last summer that Reynolds tried to buy part of his property in 2015 for well below fair market value or said that she would be landlocked.
At the time of this offer, Parks’ wife was suffering from terminal cancer. She later died.
Parks ultimately turned Reynolds down after his daughter got involved.
“After consulting with his daughter, Parks met Reynolds at a local Frisch restaurant and told Reynolds he was not interested in selling his property at this time and certainly not for the price Reynolds had offered him.” , says the lawsuit.
“At this meeting, Roger Reynolds gave Mr. Parks an ultimatum: sell the property to Roger Reynolds, or be landlocked and Roger Reynolds would ensure that any proposed development of the property would never go through planning and zoning” , says the lawsuit. .
His lawsuit accuses Reynolds of extortion, bribery and tortious interference with his business contracts. His lawsuit alleges he lost three contracts to develop his property due to interference from Reynolds, among others.
Parks told FOX19 NOW in a Sept. 9 interview at his home that he doesn’t care who buys his property, but wants to get what he feels is a fair price.
“They always refused, found something wrong,” he said. “One guy settled all the complaints he had. There were no more complaints, and they still refused. He just doesn’t want me to sell the property unless I sell it to him.
Other allegations in the lawsuit, according to court records:
- Reynolds “asked” $500,000 from one of Parks’ promoters to purchase two acres of Reynolds’ father’s land. The developer considered purchasing the additional acreage to be added to the Parks property for the senior housing development.
- Reynolds “incorrectly” told the developer he needed more green space. He also said he would use his influence to fight the proposed development if they did not buy his father’s land.
- Reynolds sought a consulting fee of $200,000 from one of Parks’ land developers to get the project through the zoning process.
- “As retribution for refusing to sell the property to Roger Reynolds, in 2017 Roger Reynolds, in his capacity as Butler County Auditor, revoked Parks’ CAUV (Current Agricultural Use Value) property tax designation and increased the assessed value of Mr. Parks’ property. .”
CAUV applications must be filed with the county auditor. For property tax purposes, farmland devoted exclusively to commercial agriculture may be valued based on its current use rather than its “highest and best” potential use. By allowing values to be set well below true market values, the CAUV normally results in a significantly lower tax bill for working farmers.
Parks’ lawsuit claims Reynolds provided no notice to Parks about having her 2017 CAUV tax assessment revoked, how to appeal it – and did not tell her daughter why she was revoked when she left. is informed.
Parks was charged $30,000 on his first tax bill of 2018, the amount of tax savings he accrued over the previous three years with the CAUV designation, his attorney says.
The parks also had a higher annual property tax rate from then on, according to the lawsuit.
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