Ex-Butler County auditor Roger Reynolds’ wants new trial, says state withheld exculpatory evidence

Reynolds faces six to 18 months in prison with a potential fine of up to $5,000.

A week before sentencing, former Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds is requesting a new trial, saying the prosecution failed to turn over exculpatory evidence.

Reynolds’ attorney Chad Ziepfel filed the motion Wednesday claiming the state withheld thousands of pages of documents and emails from the defense that would have contradicted the testimony of the single prosecution witness in the felony charge he was convicted of.

A jury found Reynolds guilty Dec. 21, 2022 in Butler County Common Pleas Court of unlawful interest in a public contract, a fourth-degree felony. Reynolds was found not guilty of three felony charges and one misdemeanor charge.

Reynolds, 53, faces six to 18 months in prison, with a potential fine of up to $5,000. Because of the felony conviction, he is not legally permitted to hold elected office. Nancy Nix is now the auditor as recently selected by the Butler County GOP to replace him.

Reynolds is scheduled to be sentenced by Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan on Feb. 15.

In the motion for a new trial, Ziepfel says the jury found Reynolds guilty of a charge that he allegedly suggested a partnership between Lakota Local Schools and Four Bridges Golf Club to expand the indoor golf training facility for the Lakota teams, but the jury rendered this verdict and the defense presented its case without any of the thousands of pages of documents and emails obtained by the state from subpoenas to Four Bridges.

After trial, Ziepfel says the defense obtained one of four emails suppressed by the state — an April 26, 2017 email from Gene Powell, Four Bridges golf pro and Lakota golf coach, to Doug Herald and Graham Parlin, owners of Four Bridges.

The email, Ziepfel says, would have “drastically changed the defense’s trial strategy and ultimately the jury’s verdict on count six.”

It “directly contradicts and impeaches the key testimony given by Lakota treasurer, Jenni Logan, who was the sole witness the state presented to support count six,” he says.

By withholding the exculpatory evidence, the state violated Reynolds right to due process and the only remedy is a new trial on charge Reynolds was convicted of, Ziepfel argues.

Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro declined comment but said a written response would be filed this week.

Ziepfel previously filed a motion of acquittal alleging there was not enough evidence to convict that was denied by Hogan.

Reynolds’ conviction was related to a proposal he made to the then-treasurer of Lakota Local Schools.

In September 2017, Reynolds’ office returned $2 million to all taxing districts and $459,498 to Lakota. The fees are monies the auditor’s office receives from the state for calculating and distributing real estate taxes from levies to local governments. If the auditor’s office doesn’t need all the fees to operate, they can be returned to the various entities.

Reynolds approached the treasurer of the school district and suggested the district use public money to build an indoor golf training facility at Four Bridges Country Club.

He lives adjacent to the club, and the pro there coaches the Lakota girls golf team, where his daughter played at the time, according to testimony.

Former Lakota treasurer Jennifer Logan testified at trial that Reynolds proposed the “idea” to her during a meeting in December 2016. She and others from the district met with Reynolds at his office on High Street to discuss bond millage. When the meeting ended, he asked the others to leave the room.

Logan, who now works for the Butler County Educational Service Center, said Reynolds proposed $250,000 — or about half of the district’s refund money for the next three years — be used to build a year-round golf academy at Four Bridges for use by the Lakota golf teams.

Logan talked to the district’s lawyers about the idea, and she was told it shouldn’t be pursued for various reasons, including using public money to build on private property.

Reynolds then proposed an option of letting Four Bridges build the facility and charging the district a yearly access fee of $250,000. Both proposals never reached the point of being voted by the school board.

Ziepfel said in his motion for a new trial that had the defense been given the emails in question, the defense would have called Powell to testify the that he, not Reynolds was leading the project and that the project idea had multiple Lakota supporters.

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