September 20, 2023

Former Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds Appeals Conviction Seeking End to $4 Million Lawsuit

July 12 – Former Butler County auditor Roger Reynolds is trying to get rid of both a felony conviction and a $4 million civil lawsuit with recent filings in two different courts.

Reynolds, who was convicted of illegal interest in a government contract, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, filed his appeal Monday with the 12th District Court of Appeals. His attorney has filed a lawsuit in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

In December, a jury found fault with the elected official who tried to convince the Lakota schools to build a golf academy in the golf course community where his family lives — using excess accountant fees, Reynolds routinely returned to tax authorities.

Reynolds’ attorney, Chad Ziepfel, said in his briefing that the conviction was baseless and sets a dangerous precedent.

“If confirmed, this case will be held criminally liable for any brainstorm a government official has about how public funds should be spent,” Ziepfel wrote. “No case is so widespread. For good reason. The law doesn’t allow it.’

A visiting Judge Daniel Hogan sentenced him to 30 days in prison, but he suspended it pending this appeal and five years’ probation. He also fined him $5,000 and ordered him to serve 100 hours of community service.

Reynolds has twice tried to get Hogan to dismiss the conviction, first for an acquittal and again to try for a new trial by accusing special prosecutors in the Attorney General’s office of concealing key evidence. Hogan denied both.

Reynolds had some conversations with former Lakota Schools treasurer Jenni Logan about funding a golf academy at Four Bridges Golf Course, where his family lives. He suggested they use some of the money – $750,000 – that he has to pay back to the tax authorities with overcharged accounting firm fees. His daughter is on the Lakota golf team, hence the alleged self benefit.

Reynolds claims the conviction was unwarranted on a number of fronts: No contract with the school was even close to execution; he did not communicate with anyone authorized to approve such a project; he did not arm anyone with his title as an auditor and neither he nor his daughter had a personal interest in the golf academy.

“There is insufficient evidence that Reynolds ‘used his authority or influence.’ Reynolds acted as a taxpayer and private individual, presenting his idea to Jenni Logan in a deliberately informal meeting,” Ziepfel wrote. “He didn’t ask to talk to her one-on-one because he was trying to sneak around and get around the system.”

He noted that Reynolds even encouraged Logan to seek legal advice, “this is not the behavior of someone trying to arm themselves with force to get permission to contract.”

He raised these issues when he asked Hogan for an outright acquittal and Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro argued that the law requires evidence that influence was used to obtain consent, not that a contract was formed.

Hogan said in his decision to deny the acquittal “the file is full of evidence of the defendant’s conduct. Some of the behaviors are subtle. Some are not so subtle. The jury was free to use the evidence and the conclusions drawn from it to determine whether the defendant used the authority.” and the influence of his office in getting approval for the proposed contract.”

He also claims that Hogan made a mistake by not allowing a new trial after they revealed emails from the owner of Four Bridges that they found after the trial was withheld from them. They said the correspondence showed that the golf facility was the idea of ​​the golf coach and not Reynolds; the Lakota staff “continued with their coach’s idea even after Reynolds dropped it, showing that he was not exerting any undue influence” and the emails contradict Logan’s testimony.

The civil procedure

The Lakota incident was the least serious of the charges he was charged with. He was found not guilty of three felony charges, including bribery and one misdemeanor charge related to a $4 million civil lawsuit filed in September 2021 by 88-year-old Gerald Parks and his daughter Tina Barlow. The jury found that Reynolds was not criminally liable for knocking down some development deals Parks was trying to forge.

The claims in that case have evolved — and other defendants have been dismissed — and now both sides have asked visiting judge Dennis Langer to settle the case in their favor ahead of the Oct. 30 trial.

The two main charges are that Reynolds used his office and political clout to doom three development deals — each worth $1.3 to $1.35 million — and remove farm tax breaks from Parks’ land. He is taxed individually and in his capacity as supervisory director.

Reynolds claims he enjoys legal immunity because he was a government official at the time. The county paid its legal fees for the civil case up to the $100,000 deductible, their insurance company taking over the payments earlier this year. Reynolds pays for his criminal defense.

Parks’ attorney Chip Goff previously told the Journal-News that the not guilty verdicts in the indictments related to his client’s claims will not negatively affect his case.

“The burden of proof the jury has to apply in a civil trial is a preponderance of evidence. It’s a much lower standard than that required in a criminal trial, which is reasonable doubt,” Goff said. “The facts and evidence presented to a jury in a criminal trial may result in a defendant being found not guilty, but the same facts and evidence presented to another jury in a civil trial may result in the same defendant being tried civilly. liable for damages.”

Staff writer Lauren Pack contributed to this report.

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