Butler County auditor won’t drop re-election bid despite legal troubles

County treasurer Nix is putting her name on the May ballot for auditor, citing uncertainty with Reynolds

Credit: Nick Daggy

Credit: Nick Daggy

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds says he understands the election challenge coming from Treasurer Nancy Nix but said his legal troubles won’t force him out of office.

Nix pulled petitions Friday to run for the Auditor job and is expected to file them by the Wednesday deadline for the May 3 primary. That’s because Reynolds’ future is uncertain and county officials want to make sure the top financial office in the county is secure. Nix said she discussed it with Reynolds and other county office holders and officials before she pulled the petitions, saying, “we need a back-up plan and not leave the office to chance.”

“I don’t wish for Roger to lose his job,” Nix told the Journal-News on Friday evening. “I don’t really view it that I’m running against Roger Reynolds, but more maintaining the stability for taxpayers in the county in the event something happens. As we know he’s got some ethics, legal issues that have yet to be resolved.”

Reynolds is under a criminal investigation into whether he has done anything wrong in trying to get $1 million in public funds for mandated road improvements so his father’s West Chester Twp. property can be developed into a senior living community.

He told the Journal-News on Saturday that he will remain on the ballot. He said he “understands Nancy’s reason for filing” and said she would be a “great” auditor.

“It’s unfortunate that a local zoning dispute has risen to this level,” Reynolds said. “I look forward to answering the accusations and continuing as auditor. My team and I are doing tremendous work in the office and we’re not going to be distracted by petty politics.”

Attorney General Dave Yost has assigned investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to the case. The situation also has been referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission, but that entity cannot comment.

“We’re still working on it, we’re working with BCI and their agents, coordinating efforts there and speaking on a regular basis with the special prosecutor and taking his advice,” Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said last week.

Steve Irwin, Yost’s press secretary, told the Journal-News last week the investigation is ongoing.

The sheriff’s office began investigating Reynolds in August for his alleged involvement in trying to ensure public funds could be used for road improvements to facilitate the sale of his father’s property for a senior living development in West Chester Twp.

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 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.

One email from county Water and Sewer Director Martha Shelby to county Administrator Judi Boyko says that Reynolds contacted her and said 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.”

There also is a civil suit against Reynolds. He is set to face a jury in 18 months, when he will defend himself against bribery, ethics violations and interference charges in a lawsuit filed by a West Chester Twp. man.

Nix told the Journal-News that because the auditor is the top financial officer of the county, she wanted to make sure the county is in good hands whatever happens with Reynolds.

“I just don’t feel like it should be left to chance,” she said. “As a CPA, former banker, longtime county treasurer I just feel I have the appropriate training and qualifications if he can’t continue serving in that role.”

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