Attorney General’s office joins investigation into Butler County auditor

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds

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Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds

The investigation into whether County Auditor Roger Reynolds has done anything wrong in trying to get $1 million in public funds for mandated road improvements to facilitate the sale of his father’s property has broadened with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office joining the probe.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones announced Friday that Attorney General Dave Yost “has assigned investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to assist with this criminal investigation.”

Jones began investigating Reynolds in August for his alleged involvement in trying to get $1 million in public funds for mandated road improvements to facilitate the sale of his father’s property for a senior living development in West Chester Twp.

“Fortunately, local law enforcement rarely has to deal with public corruption in Ohio,” Yost sent in a statement to the Journal-News. “These cases can become very complicated and often require specialized expertise, which the Attorney General’s Office can bring to the table. We will work closely with Sheriff Jones until this investigation is complete.”

ExploreButler County sheriff investigating county auditor over public funds requests

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser is not part of the investigation but has been reviewing documents for Jones.

“I have a great deal of confidence in the Ohio attorney general to do responsible investigations,” Gmoser told the Journal-News. “And if the sheriff feels he would like his help I would certainly appreciate the attorney general giving him a hand.”

Reynolds’ father, Raymond, owns 25 acres along Hamilton Mason Road between Mauds Hughes and Cincinnati Dayton roads. The four parcels are valued at $459,370, according to the auditor’s website. The 122-unit senior living development called Red Oaks has received zoning approval from the West Chester trustees, but a major road improvement is one of the conditions for it moving forward.

According to email records obtained by the Journal-News, Reynolds has asked the county commissioners and trustees from West Chester and Liberty townships to provide tax increment financing dollars for the $1.1 million road improvement. Some of Reynolds’ emails were sent from his county work email account that identifies his elected position, and he sent others from his personal email account.

He also contacted Water & Sewer Department Director Martha Shelby because the developer was concerned about $862,512 in water capacity fees so he wanted to explore special capacity fees for “developments targeting” older residents.

Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick told the Journal-News previously he cannot say whether the Reynolds issue has come before the commission or discuss whether there is a potential conflict of interest. But generally, “under the conflict of interest statute, the use of authority could include using your office to try and influence other officeholders.”

He said there are various penalties for violating ethics laws. The penalty for “use of authority” would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail.

Reynolds could not be reached for comment on this latest development but said previously he has no power over any other jurisdictions or offices and “obviously it’s the politics that’s going on in the county.”

“My understanding of the conflict rules prohibit any ‘official action or making decisions’ by me in the auditor’s office that would personally benefit me or my family,” Reynolds said. “All the requests have been made to other offices I don’t serve and have no authority (over). I plan to ask the ethics department for confirmation.”.

Jones has asked anyone with information regarding this investigation to contact Detective Ryan Hensley of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office 513-785-1000.

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