Butler County claims no more financial responsibility in lawsuit against ex-auditor Roger Reynolds

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

With only one claim remaining in the $4 million civil lawsuit against former auditor Roger Reynolds, the county has asked the visiting judge to let it off the hook for possible damages or additional attorney fees.

A majority of the claims in a $4 million civil lawsuit filed against Reynolds that he allegedly interfered with a West Chester Twp. man’s development deals have been tossed. Given that the only remaining claim doesn’t involve the county, Prosecutor Mike Gmoser has asked visiting Judge Dennis Langer for a hearing to determine the county’s duty to defend him and pay a possible judgement.

“Butler County asserts that the discovery and rulings to date in this case establish that the acts of Mr. Reynolds, the former Butler County Auditor, relevant to this litigation were outside the scope of his employment and official responsibilities such that Butler County has no duty to indemnify any judgement that might be obtained against Mr. Reynolds,” the motion reads.

“Further, Butler County maintains that Mr. Reynolds actions were manifestly outside the scope of his employment or official responsibilities, such that Butler County has no duty to defend M. Reynolds. Additionally, Butler County asserts that the actions of Mr. Reynolds were not in good faith, which relieves Butler County of any duty to defend or indemnify.”

Gerald Parks sued Reynolds in September 2021, and those allegations spawned a criminal prosecution. The claims in the civil case have evolved — and other defendants dismissed — and both sides asked visiting Judge Dennis Langer to settle the matter in their favor ahead of the Oct. 30 trial.

Reynolds has been paying his own legal bills for the criminal proceedings — the case is on appeal — but the taxpayers have picked up a large share of the tab for the civil lawsuit. The legal bills total $140,434 from Oct. 2021 through June 30. The county hasn’t received an accounting of the bills since then yet.

The county paid $100,000, which is the deductible, and now the insurance company is paying the rest.

The two main charges are that Reynolds used his office and political clout to doom three development deals — worth $1.3 million-$1.35 million each — and removed agricultural tax breaks from Parks’ land. He was charged individually and in his capacity as auditor.

Both sides filed what are known as summary judgment motions, asking Langer to find in their favor on numerous issues. His decisions on those motions define if/how the trial will go. It appears out of five counts in the complaint, there is only one matter ripe for a jury to decide at trial, involving the doomed Clover development in Liberty Twp.

“However, that claim may only go forward as a claim of tortious interference with a business relationship, not also as a claim of tortious interference with a contract,” Langer wrote.

That issue involves Reynolds’ alleged influence over decisions made by the Liberty Twp. trustees, “as it relates to the Clover contract, plaintiffs presented evidence showing there is a genuine issue as to whether defendant improperly influenced members of the Liberty Twp. board of trustees.”

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.

A jury found Reynolds not guilty on the criminal charges related to the Parks issues in December, but guilty — he was removed from office because felons can’t hold public office — on an unrelated matter involving the Lakota Schools.

About the Author