Witness names unsealed in county auditor’s criminal case

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds (pictured) appeared for arraignment on criminal charges in front of visiting Judge Daniel Hogan in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds (pictured) appeared for arraignment on criminal charges in front of visiting Judge Daniel Hogan in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

HAMILTON — The names of witnesses in the Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds case have been unsealed and can be viewed by the public.

Reynolds, 52, is facing charges of 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.

The criminal case is being litigated by a special prosecutor, Brad Tammaro, from the attorney general’s office, and the charges came after a months-long investigation by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

On Feb. 24, Tammaro filed a motion to instruct the clerk of courts office to restrict public access to witness names and addresses “to ensure individual privacy rights and interests and fairness to adjudicatory process.” The list is part of the discovery document filed with the clerk of courts office on Feb. 22.

Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan granted the motion the next day.

The discovery document filed by Tammaro obtained by the Journal-News on Tuesday included large black blocks where witness names are listed.

On Wednesday, Tammaro filed a modification of the request that discloses the names of witnesses, but not addresses. Hogan also granted that request.

There are 39 names on the list that includes county and township elected officials, former auditor’s office employees and business people. Witness lists are often added to or modified before trial as the case progresses. And being on the witness list does not necessarily mean the person will be called to testify.

Reynolds appeared last week in Butler County Common Pleas court for arraignment on five criminal charges, including bribery. He was indicted Feb. 9 by a Butler County grand jury.

Reynolds pleaded not guilty. He was released on his own recognizance and ordered by Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan to report to pre-trial services. Reynolds’ trial date is set for Aug. 15.

The Ohio Supreme Court appointed Hogan, a retired Franklin County Common Pleas judge, to preside over Reynolds’ case after all seven Butler County Common Pleas judges in the general division recused themselves.

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Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan speaks during arraignment of Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan speaks during arraignment of Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

caption arrowCaption
Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan speaks during arraignment of Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Bribery is a third-degree felony with a possible maximum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The other two felonies are fourth-degree charges with penalties of six to nine months behind bars.

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The charges relate to Reynolds allegedly using his position to facilitate the sale of his father’s property in West Chester Twp.

Defense attorney Chad Ziepfel has denied any wrongdoing on his client’s behalf.

“Mr. Reynolds denies these allegations and will contest the suspension. We again ask the public to keep an open mind about this matter until the real facts come out at trial,” Ziepfel said.

Reynolds was appointed auditor in 2008 and elected to his first full term in 2010.

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On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court empaneled the special commission that will decide whether Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds should be suspended pending the outcome of his criminal case.

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Prosecutors allege the bribery crime happened Nov. 8, 2019, and on or about Sept. 17, 2021, when Reynolds, an elected official, “approached a developer attempting to gain approval for a development project and offered to sell the development company his father’s land for $500,000, 2-3 acres of land valued at $21,000 by the Butler County Auditor’s Office, and requested the developer employ him as a consultant at a fee of $200,000 to guide the development project through local governmental requirements,” according to the bill for particulars filed last week.

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Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds (pictured) appeared for arraignment on criminal charges in front of visiting Judge Daniel Hogan in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds (pictured) appeared for arraignment on criminal charges in front of visiting Judge Daniel Hogan in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

caption arrowCaption
Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds (pictured) appeared for arraignment on criminal charges in front of visiting Judge Daniel Hogan in Butler County Common Pleas Court Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Hamilton. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to all charges including 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. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A second alleged felony charge of unlawful interest in a public contract happened between April 6, 2021 through Aug. 31, 2021, when Reynolds used his office to influence a public contract.

Specifically, Reynolds influenced governmental officials to secure approval of a Tax Increment Financing proposal to provide public funding from three government entities for infrastructure and improvements to Hamilton-Mason Road. Those improvements would benefit himself or a member of his family by providing public funds that would enhance the ability to develop property owned by his family, according to court documents.

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