Ex-Butler County auditor’s sentencing rescheduled; judge weighs motion for new trial

Reynolds faces six to 18 months in prison with a potential fine of up to $5,000.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Former Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds will not be sentenced this week as scheduled following the defense’s request for a new trial.

Last week Reynolds’ attorney filed a motion for a new trial on the single felony conviction claiming the prosecution failed to turn over exculpatory evidence.

A jury found Reynolds guilty Dec. 21, 2022 in Butler County Common Pleas Court of unlawful interest in a public contract, a fourth-degree felony. Reynolds was found not guilty of three felony charges and one misdemeanor charge.

Reynolds was scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, but Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan continued the sentencing until March 31. The judge also scheduled a hearing for Feb. 27 to hear arguments on the motion for a new trial.

Reynolds, 53, faces six to 18 months in prison, with a potential fine of up to $5,000. Because of the felony conviction, he is not legally permitted to hold elected office. Nancy Nix is now the auditor selected by the Butler County GOP to replace him. Nix was sworn in Monday.

In the motion, Reynolds’ attorney Chad Ziepfel says the state withheld thousands of pages of documents and emails from the defense that would have contradicted the testimony of the single prosecution witness in the felony charge of which he was convicted.

Ziepfel says the jury found Reynolds guilty of a charge that he allegedly suggested a partnership between Lakota Local Schools and Four Bridges Golf Club to expand the indoor golf training facility for the Lakota teams, but the jury rendered this verdict and the defense presented its case without any of the thousands of pages of documents and emails obtained by the state from subpoenas to Four Bridges.

After trial, Ziepfel says the defense obtained one of four emails suppressed by the state — an April 26, 2017 email from Gene Powell, Four Bridges golf pro and Lakota golf coach, to Doug Herald and Graham Parlin, owners of Four Bridges.

The email, Ziepfel says, would have “drastically changed the defense’s trial strategy and ultimately the jury’s verdict on count six.”

But prosecutors say the defendant’s motion is riddled with misrepresentations regarding discovery and evidence presented in the case.

Despite being aware of the involvement of the men mentioned in their motion, “defendant chose not to call them as witnesses at trial. This suggests that the defendant merely regrets his trial strategy and is seeking a second bit at the apple,” wrote Assistant Prosecutor Drew Wood.

Ziepfel said the email “directly contradicts and impeaches the key testimony given by Lakota treasurer, Jenni Logan, who was the sole witness the state presented to support count six,” he says.

Prosecutors say that is not true. In fact, the Powell email “is consistent with Ms. Logan’s testimony that members of the school district privately did not support the academy and publicly avoided expressing their lack of support because the did no wish to upset the auditor. Mr. Logan presented the information to the jury, it is not new information,” Wood said.

On Aug. 11, 2022, the audio-recorded interview with Powell, in which he names the other men with whom he discussed the proposal, was disclosed to the defense, according to Wood.

“The state did no hide the existence of these potential witnesses. The Defense simply chose to ignore them,” Wood said in the response.

Reynolds’ conviction was related to a proposal he made to the then-treasurer of Lakota Local Schools.

In September 2017, Reynolds’ office returned $2 million to all taxing districts and $459,498 to Lakota. The fees are monies the auditor’s office receives from the state for calculating and distributing real estate taxes from levies to local governments. If 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.

He lives adjacent to the club, and the pro there coaches the Lakota girls golf team, where his daughter played at the time, according to testimony.

Logan, the former Lakota treasurer, testified at trial that Reynolds proposed the “idea” to her during a meeting in December 2016. She and others from the district met with Reynolds 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. She said she talked to the district’s lawyers about the idea and 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.

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