HAMILTON — Recently re-elected Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds was found guilty on one felony count Wednesday in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
He was found not guilty on the other four counts, including three felonies and one misdemeanor.
As he 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,” he said with a smile.
After the verdicts were read, Reynolds’ attorney Chad Ziepfel asked visiting Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan to ask the 12 jurors to verbally agree with the guilty verdict on count six, unlawful interest in a public contract.
One by one the judge asked and all the jurors answered yes.
Reynolds will be sentenced within 30 days after Hogan checks his calendar. He faces six months to 18 months in jail, a $500,000 fine and the loss of his job.
Reynolds, 53, was found guilty of the felony charge that was added in July.
In September 2017, Reynolds’ office returned $2 million to all taxing districts and $459,498 to Lakota Schools. 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 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 once played, according to testimony.
Former Lakota Schools treasurer Jenny Logan testified last week 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.
“It’s not a crime to come up with a bad idea,” Ziepel said on Tuesday. “It was an idea that never happened.”
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 Butler County Auditor Roger 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, 2022 — 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 2022 — 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, 2022 — A superseding indictment is handed down by a grand jury, charging Reynolds with 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 — Reynolds found guilty of one felony. Sentencing is set for about 30 days.