Another defendant dropped from auditor civil lawsuit

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds is now the lone defendant in a civil lawsuit claiming he used his influence to destroy a development deal potentially costing a West Chester Twp. man millions.

The attorney for 88-year-old Gerald Parks has dismissed Buck Rumpke, a member of the Butler County Planning and Zoning Commission from the lawsuit filed against him, Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds and Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell a year ago. Parks originally alleged all three conspired to ruin a development deal, costing the man about $1.3 million.

Parks’ attorney Milton “Chip” Goff dismissed Farrell last month telling the Journal-News “Tom was dismissed because he is not the Defendant to focus on at this time.” He has not responded when asked about Rumpke but filed the dismissal against him on Thursday.

Rumpke’s attorney Andy Yosowitz told the Journal-News his client shouldn’t have been a defendant either.

“Buck Rumpke was wrongfully sued and has now been dismissed from the case. There was never any evidence that Mr. Rumpke did anything wrong,” Yosowitz said. “Unfortunately, people’s reputations are affected every day by untrue accusations and claims made with no merit.”

Parks sued Reynolds, Farrell, Liberty Twp. and Rumpke, last fall alleging bribery, ethics violations and interference in the development of a senior living community on land he owns in the township.

The bulk of the lawsuit centers on Reynolds and his efforts to get a development called Red Oaks Commons developed on land owned by his father in West Chester Twp. and defeating a similar development by the Clover Group on Parks’ land in Liberty Twp. It is intertwined in the criminal charges Reynolds also faces and is going on trial for in December.

The portion of the lawsuit that directly involved Farrell and Rumpke was a $1.35 million purchase offer by Lancaster Land LLP so Clover Group could build the 55+ senior community. The county planning commission gave conditional approval by a 3 to 2 vote to the plan in January 2021, but Rumpke voted no.

The Liberty Twp. plan commission heard the case at the end of January and Reynolds spoke in opposition to the development, citing greenspace and other concerns, according to the suit. It alleges Reynolds made a $500 contribution to Farrell’s reelection campaign March 4. The Liberty Plan Commission voted 4 to 1 against the project in April.

In the 59-page complaint Goff said Rumpke voted in favor of Red Oaks but against the Clover Group’s project as a Planning and Zoning commissioner and at the Liberty Twp. trustee meeting on May 18, 2021 “illegally stated low income senior housing needs to be in a more appropriate area” about the Clover Group project, allegedly trying to get the trustees to turn it down because he was “conspiring” with Reynolds.

“Mr. Rumpke’s statement identified to us his personal opposition to the Clover Development which if explained at the Nov. 12, 2021 Butler County Planning and Zoning hearing on the Clover Development would have required him to recuse himself., the complaint reads.

Farrell is now on a mission to tackle the justice system and “frivolous” lawsuits because he says, “you have no ability to defend yourself, you’re considered guilty until proven innocent.”

“My opinion on civil legal process, on the other hand, is something that I believe needs to be fixed, and I will be pursing the options to do so,” Farrell said. “People suing in civil cases need some accountability for their actions.”

He said he intends to contact State Rep. Thomas Hall and Sen. George Lang to see if there is a legislative cure, but he has no illusions, and “most of them are going to tell you that I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, but I like those odds.”

All three men’s legal defenses in the civil lawsuit are being paid by the taxpayers. Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte said defending Farrell and the township has cost a total of $67,906, the township’s insurance company has paid $36,349 and the township has picked up $31,557 to-date.

County Administrator Judi Boyko said the county has paid $34,904 through June 30 for the Parks litigation, it doesn’t include all the depositions that have been taken since. The county has a $100,000 deductible then insurance will cover the litigation costs. Reynolds has to pay his own legal bills in the criminal case.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson said that amount has also covered Rumpke’s defense because he was working for the county as a plan commissioner.

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