HAMILTON — Last week’s felony conviction of Roger Reynolds means he can no longer hold the office of county auditor, and the county commission could move as soon as Thursday to appoint a temporary replacement, according to Prosecutor Michael Gmoser and Butler County officials.
Reynolds, who was charged with four felonies and one misdemeanor, was found guilty of unlawful interest in a public contract, a fourth-degree felony charge, on Dec. 21 in Butler County Common Pleas Court. He was acquitted of the remaining charges.
The conviction that came after seven days of testimony carries a possible jail term of six to 18 months and a potential fine of $5,000 or less. The jury deliberated for eight hours before returning the verdict.
Reynolds, 53, of West Chester Twp., did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday and a request asking if he had resigned his office. But Gmoser said Reynolds verbally indicated last week that he cleaned out his office.
On Tuesday, the first day of business for county offices after the Christmas holiday, Reynolds’ name had been scraped off the front door of the auditor’s office in the county administration building on High Street.
Chief Deputy Auditor Dawn Mills said Reynolds was in the office Tuesday and took a message to ask him return a call to the Journal-News. He did not. A Journal-News photojournalist waited for 30 minutes in the office without response for someone to indicated if Reynolds was in the office.
Gmoser said the prosecutor’s office is awaiting an email of resignation and if they did not receive it, “they would assert that he stated he moved out and vacated his office.”
“As far as I am concerned we don’t have an auditor right now,” Gmoser said Tuesday. “The verdict is in, that is what controls the statute, not sentencing. The conviction has been filed, triggering the issue for removal, so he has got to go. Period. End of story. That’s just the way it is.”
The county prosecutor said if Reynolds was not in compliance, the office would seek an emergency court hearing so that the auditor’s office is not vacant.
Reynolds said via text message late Tuesday afternoon that he had cleaned out his office, but “I had to go to the office to get the remainder of my belongings. There are some folks I did not get to see last week because of vacation/holidays.”
Reynolds’ attorney Chad Ziepfel did not respond to request for comment, including if there would be an appeal.
Butler County commissioners Don Dixon, T.C. Rogers and Cindy Carpenter are scheduled to meet Thursday morning. Dixon, commission president, said an appointment could happen then.
“We will have to appoint (a temporary county auditor). It’s not a very complicated process,” Dixon said. “Possibly could do it Thursday if we have a consensus.”
Reynolds, who held the office for 14 years, was re-elected in November. The Butler County Republican Party will meet within 45 days of the conviction to appoint a new auditor, according to Todd Hall, party chairman.
A sentencing date has not been set, but will likely happen next month after a pre-sentence investigation is conducted, according to visiting Judge Daniel Hogan. Hogan presided over the trial and the case was prosecuted by Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro with the Ohio attorney general’s office.
Last week, as Reynolds was leaving the court after the jurors deliberated for about eight hours after seven days of testimony, Reynolds was asked for a comment by the media. “Merry Christmas” was his only response.
His felony conviction was related to a suggestion he made to the 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. The auditor’s office doesn’t need all the fees to operate, so 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.
Reynolds lives near Four Bridges and the pro there coaches the Lakota girls golf team, where his daughter played at the time, according to testimony.
Former Lakota Schools treasurer Jenny Logan testified that Reynolds proposed the “idea” to her during a meeting in December 2016. She and others from the district met with Rogers 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.
Reynolds was appointed county auditor in April 2008. He was elected to complete the full term as auditor in November 2008 and subsequently was re-elected to full, four-year terms in 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022.
Reynolds was originally indicted by a grand jury on Feb. 9, 2022, for bribery, two counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and misdemeanor charges of unlawful use of authority and conflict of interest. The charges stem from allegations that Reynolds used his public office to further his own interests.
TIMELINE OF CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST REYNOLDS
August 2021: Butler County Sheriff’s Office begins investigating Roger Reynolds after a civil lawsuit is filed against Reynolds claiming interference in connection with a West Chester man’s land and business relations. Attorney General Dave Yost assigns investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to assist.
September 2021: A special prosecutor from the attorney general’s office is assigned to the case.
Feb. 9, 2022: Reynolds is indicted by a Butler County grand jury on three felony charges, including bribery and two misdemeanors.
Feb. 24: Reynolds pleads not guilty at arraignment in Butler County Common Pleas Court. Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan releases Reynolds on his own recognizance. Trial date set for Aug. 15.
March: Chad Ziepfel, Reynolds’ attorney, files a motion to have all charges dismissed based on a flawed bill of particulars. The motion is denied and the case moves forward.
July 13: A superseding indictment is handed down by a grand jury, charging Reynolds wih a fourth felony.
Aug. 3: Arraignment for Reynolds on the new indictment. His attorney enters a not guilty plea on his behalf. Trial continued until Dec. 12 at the request of the prosecution.
Nov. 8: Reynolds is elected to his fourth full term as Butler County auditor.
Dec. 12: Reynolds’ criminal trial set to begin in common pleas court.
Dec. 21: Jury begins deliberations and returns verdicts after eight hours.
Dec. 21: Reynolds found guilty of one felony. Sentencing is set for about 30 days.