Butler County Auditor pleads not guilty to corruption charges
Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds entered a not guilty plea during an arraignment hearing Thursday. He's charged with five counts of corruption, including bribery, unlawful interest in a public contract and unlawful use of authority.
The charges stem from his alleged involvement in a property deal to build a retirement community in West Chester. He's also being sued in civil court on a related land deal.
Reynolds, a Republican, didn't comment following Thursday's arraignment.
Judge Daniel Hogan set a trial date for Aug. 15. Hogan is a retired judge from Franklin County. He was appointed after all Butler County judges recused themselves.
Reynolds was released on his own recognizance but will be allowed to travel out of state if he reports to pre-trial services first.
The prosecutor's office is asking the judge to restrict access to witness lists.
Attorney General Dave Yost last week formally asked the Ohio Supreme Court to begin suspension proceedings against Reynolds.
The five counts alleged in the indictment include:
- One count of bribery, a third-degree felony
- Two counts of unlawful interest in a public contract, both fourth-degree felonies
- One count of unlawful use of authority, a first-degree misdemeanor
- One count of conflict of interest, a first-degree misdemeanor
Court documents argue Reynolds used his position as county auditor to influence the sale of his father's property for his own gain.
Reynolds denies any wrongdoing.
Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones began investigating Reynolds seven months ago. During a news conference on Feb. 9, he told media the investigation is continuing.
"All of (the charges) are all serious. And if you're in office, it's even more egregious. It's embarrassing. This isn't the first time our county has had office holders that get indicted or go to prison," he said.
Reynolds attorney, Chad R. Ziepfel with the Taft law firm, issued this statement following the initial indictment:
"The allegations in the indictment against Mr. Reynolds are false. Mr. Reynolds has never solicited, accepted, or paid any bribes, and he has never used his position, authority, or influence to improperly benefit himself or anyone else. Mr. Reynolds has served the Butler County community with honor for the past 19 years, without even a hint of impropriety. He is proud of reforming the Auditor's office, restoring trust with the citizens, and fighting for fair property valuations. Mr. Reynolds will vigorously defend himself against these charges, and looks forward to continuing in public service for years to come."