Documents appear to debunk $200K Butler County auditor consulting fee solicitation

March 19 (Reuters) – Ohio Supreme Court records appear to contradict the state’s claim that Butler County CPA Roger Reynolds attempted to solicit a $200,000 consulting fee to enable a development similar to his Family would benefit or maybe not.

Now that a special commission convened by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that Reynolds will keep his job while he fights criminal charges against him, the Supreme Court released records filed in the suspension case.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on February 14 asked Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to suspend Reynolds on charges of three counts of bribery and two misdemeanors and using his public office for personal gain. If found guilty, he faces up to 7 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Some of the fees include a $200,000 consulting fee that Reynolds allegedly asked developers Brian Jimenez and Tim Haid to use his political clout to “steer the development proposal through the approval process.”

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office reported that it has handwritten notes of two phone calls with Reynolds and a recording of a third call.

“I spoke to Mr. Jimenez and Mr. Haid after receiving the notes and recordings, and they explained the counseling fee and how it was discussed in all three calls,” a sheriff’s investigator’s report said.

Reynolds’ attorney, Chad Ziepfel, filed an addendum to his challenge to the suspension that included the recorded conversation between the auditor and Jimenez discussing property owned by Gerald Parks, who has sued Reynolds in civil court.

“Now that we look at the record, it is clear that the state’s evidence is false. During the recorded call, there was absolutely no mention of a bribe payment or a $200,000 ‘consultation fee’,” Ziepfel wrote. “It was a perfectly professional call, with much discussion of the fact that sewer access in the area was controlled by Mr. Reynolds and his father.”

The Journal News listened to the 15-minute recorded conversation and made no mention of the $200,000 consulting fee. The two talked about getting sewage in the area, and Reynolds – who grew up there – helped get neighbors on board with a new development.

They discussed working together to redevelop the entire area, there was a hint of a previous conversation between the two.

“Yes, find out somehow, something to work together. You know, I gave you something, I threw you something, I don’t know, it’s been two or three months since I worked with you and tried to help you, whatever support you need down there,” Reynolds said on the call.

At the end of the call, Reynolds said, “If you guys want to work on this together, let’s do it. If not, that’s okay too.”

Butler County Sheriff’s Office Richard Jones began investigating Reynolds last summer after he received some complaints about his development deals. The State Criminal Police Office also joined the investigation. Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Dwyer said he could not comment on the matter. Yost didn’t want to comment either.

O’Connor had to appoint a so-called 3.16 special commission made up of three retired judges, which it did on March 1. They were tasked with making a tentative decision on the temporary suspension within 14 days, and they released their finding on Tuesday.

“The Panel finds that Mr. Reynolds’ actions, as set forth in the indictments, are not sufficiently related to the performance and duties of his office to warrant a suspension,” the decision said. “There is an inadequate connection between the alleged actions in the Attorney General’s motion for suspension and the functionality of the Office of the Butler County Chartered Accountant.”

Reynolds pleaded not guilty and was free on his own accord. His trial is scheduled for August 15.

Reynolds has claimed he was the victim of a political witch hunt by the state to punish him for contesting a state-mandated property appreciation. He has said he did nothing wrong when he asked officials in the boroughs of Liberty and West Chester to use $1.1 million in TIF funds for road works that will fund the sale of his father’s property for a senior housing project would be required in West Chester. He also denies wrongdoing in his development deals with Parks, who have sued him in a separate court case intertwined with the criminal case.

Reynolds is running for re-election this year, and several local leaders, including the sheriff, two county commissioners and Yost, have said he should step down. Butler County Republican Party Chairman Todd Hall said regardless of the panel’s decision, he believes Reynolds should leave office.

“Obviously they are judges and what they decide is important,” Hall said. “As party chairman, I simply believe that the district’s image must be protected.”

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