Former Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, March 31 in Butler County Common Pleas Court for the single felony conviction that came after months of allegations, a lengthy investigation and and an eight-day trial.
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.
The West Chester Twp. resident faces six to 18 months in prison, with a potential fine of up to $5,000. Incarceration for a person with no criminal background for a non-violent offense is unusual for a low felony, but Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro of the attorney general’s office is pushing for some time behind bars, while Reynolds’ attorney barely acknowledges a crime was committed.
Reynolds was found guilty of a suggested partnership between Lakota Local Schools and Four Bridges Golf Club to expand the indoor golf training facility for the Lakota teams and using his influence as auditor to push for a facility.
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 trial testimony.
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.
Former Lakota treasurer Jenni Logan 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.
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, according to testimony. Logan testified she told Reynolds the actions might be a conflict of interest, but she said he had a differing legal opinion differing opinion from the prosecutor’s office, the auditor’s office legal counsel. At trial both sides stipulated Reynolds never consulted the prosecutor’s office for a legal opinion.
Chad Ziepfel, Reynolds’ attorney filed motions for acquittal and a new trial in recent months, both were denied by Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan.
In a 21-page sentencing motion, Ziepfel concludes, “Mr. Reynolds advocated for a unique idea to invest in the younger generation and to encourage women golfers. In doing so, he made a mistake. Community control will allow Mr. Reynolds the opportunity to continue his service to the community and to repay his debt to society without the burden of incarceration costs.”
Reynolds was first appointed county auditor in 2008 and re-elected multiple times, most recently in 2022, Ziepfel noted. He is a lifelong resident of the county and the father of two daughters.
Ziepfel said Reynolds worked tirelessly to make the county auditor’s office a professional and efficient entity.
“Mr. Reynolds’ conviction in this case obviously runs counter to the lifetime of good works and strong values that led him to be a respected county-wide elected official,” Ziepfel said in the motion. “While Mr. Reynolds never set out to break the law or to further his own interests, he respects the jury’s verdict and regrets ever getting involved in the golf training facility discussions.”
The court record includes more that 30 letters have been written to the judge concerning sentencing. The vast majority are in support of Reynolds from friends, neighbors and family.
Tammarro pointed to Reynolds genuine lack of remorse, and the need for incarceration.
“Rather than express an understanding or the improper nature of his actions, Defendant Reynolds simply expresses a combative attitude refusing to accept or recognize the criminal nature of the very actions that led to his conviction,” Tammaro wrote in the sentencing motion.
Reynolds engaged in activity that “stained” the office of county auditor, Tammaro said.
“The facts disclose a situation where an entrenched powerful government official felt emboldened enough to try to take advantage of his position to promote a personal interest. Moreover, when his actions were questioned by the officials of the school district, the defendant attempted to justify his actions with a lie,” Tammaro said.
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