The Indictment of Roger Reynolds: Is it the pursuit of justice, or a political hit

I brag all the time about how great the Republican Party is in Butler County, and with the corruption indictment of Roger Reynolds that is the hot story this week, I still feel that way. Yet, I’ve known Roger for more than a decade, and I know him to be an excellent auditor for the people who elected him. As I said before, I view the land story that Channel 19 covered back in September of 2021 as a hit piece by Jennifer Edwards, who looks to target Republicans often in stories pitting people against each other to make news, not just reporting it. Her hit piece against Roger and other members of the Liberty Township trustees was obviously political, to attack the Republican brand ahead of the November election. Essentially as I see it, the Roger Reynolds story is one where old family entanglements can get mushy with the duties of an elected office. I find much of it hard to believe, and I think the story is mainly about emotions than logic. But for me, it doesn’t erase all the good work Roger has done over the years. And as I always say, the law is the same at 9 AM as it is at 9 PM or any other day of the week or year. If Roger broke the law, then the law should apply. However, watching Sheriff Jones’ face glow with glee during the indictment announcement made me think of some hypotheticals. Jones was too happy about the indictment, and some of the ways he said words in his presentation triggered questions that are worth consideration since what we are all talking about here are the ethics of an elected office and whether or not Roger Reynolds actually broke any laws, or that the case is a legal dispute between two parties over land. Did Roger abuse his office? Well, if we conclude that he did, doesn’t it open up a whole lot of questions about Sheriff Jones?

I’ve often thought of Sheriff Jones as a great asset to Butler County. But, since Trump left office and Joe Biden has been in the presidency, Jones has turned more into a Democrat than the guy who plays a Republican on TV and at public speeches. The way that Jones went after Congressman Thomas Hall over a voting record, with name-calling and sheer intimidation in public, comes to mind as an abuse of power of an elected office. Voters picked Thomas, yet the Sheriff made quite a public spectacle out of destroying his credibility on WLW radio to many thousands of people. I thought Thomas defended himself well, but the question remains about Sheriff Jones, what was he thinking in doing so? Was he trying to intimidate an officeholder, to exert power over the Republican Party of Butler County in ways that didn’t represent the voters? Surely not. But based on the kinds of things that Jones said in his press conference about the indictment of Roger Reynolds, doubt was indeed cast on the situation. Why would Sheriff Jones be so happy to bring about an indictment of a fellow Republican? His glee sounded as if he were a Democrat about to put a Republican in jail over some bogus charge, an allegation anybody could make against anybody. Given how the Sheriff treated Thomas Hall, might it not be logical to conclude that the Sheriff took a particular interest in the Reynolds case for some strategic move? For a local land dispute to make it to the Attorney General of Ohio directly, some political investment would have to be involved, raising eyebrows. 

Then there was the strange action on Sheriff Jones’ mask politics, where he had been leading the country against mandates. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, as the new school board at Lakota was getting set to vote to remove mask mandates, and the teacher’s union was all upset about it, Sheriff Jones flipped his position. It was an extraordinary move for him. What was going on? Well, I know more than I’m letting on here. But for the sake of the hypotheticals of this evolving case, questions are good to ask, especially in public figures who are declaring injustice among long-time Republicans in the team-building of party politics. I remember years ago when I published the pay rates of the local police departments, and I was shocked by how many family members Sheriff Jones had in many townships. It brought a question to my mind about Sheriff Jones himself and his relationship with members of Congress, senators, and area trustees. What was he really saying when he bragged about beating down some politician like Thomas Hall on city-wide radio? “Don’t get on my bad side. Or the same thing will happen to you.”  Whether or not that was the intention, I can say that I know many politicians who feel that way. Was that feeling created on purpose by the Sheriff? Is that part of his brand within the party? And is he really a Democrat trying to infiltrate the Republican Party with liberalism disguised as good ol’ fashion police work? 

Watching Jones stumble over the word “start” in his press conference, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was getting stuck trying to justify to himself how the investigation into Reynolds even started. By the way, I watched his body language. He acted like a guy who knew he was doing something wrong yet was trying to hide it behind justice. Thinking of all these things, I couldn’t help but wonder if some family member of Jones had worked in the office of Roger Reynolds and maybe had a falling out like many employees do with their bosses. With so much family on the government payroll, it would certainly be a conflict of interest if Jones was out in the county intimidating public officials into behaving the way he wanted them to, to protect his family members employed by some of those politicians. And if that were the case, which it may or may not be, how would it be different from what Jones was accusing Reynolds of doing, based on a Channel 19 report, meant to smear area Republicans and refer the investigation up the food chain to the Attorney General’s office, and smear the headlines all over the national news? It comes out looking like a lot of “unlawful use of authority” to me and many spoonfuls of “conflict of interest.”

If the law was broken, everyone should pay for their incursions. If Roger is guilty, then he is guilty. I would be surprised if he were, but I’ve seen plenty of railroad cases before, and this whole issue has the smell of a political hit. It looks like some kind of revenge scheme that is being hidden behind some token law and order façade. I hope that’s not the case. But if Roger is guilty, then where do we draw the line between public life and protecting family concerns? Roger might have made mistakes with his case because of family entanglements, things that he wouldn’t usually find himself involved in. But couldn’t the same be said when an officeholder, such as a sheriff, intimidates officeholders who employ family members? And what happens if there is some termination of employment? Would the Sheriff get personally involved? Would he retaliate? Well, he has shown the signs of that behavior. I’m sure we’ll find out. For now, I feel I need to defend my political party in my hometown from this embarrassment that the Sheriff has communicated to the world. Should we be mad at Roger? Or should we be angry at the Sheriff? Well, I want to see all wrongdoers get punished for their crimes. But are we talking about crime here, or are we talking about revenge? Time will tell, but politics is a blood sport, and to my way of thinking, I think these kinds of debates are necessary to make the best party possible under the most divisive circumstances that may emerge. 

Rich Hoffman

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