Suspension remains amid legal wrangling
Friday, December 20, 2013
CONCORD – Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams remained suspended Thursday after the latest hearing in his attempt to get back on the job while he is under criminal investigation.
Merrimack Superior Court Justice Richard McNamara said he believes the veteran prosecutor can remain suspended while the investigation continues but he did not issue a final ruling on the question. That ruling will come within the next 30 days.
Attorney General Joseph Foster stripped Reams of his authority Nov. 6, and county commissioners subsequently barred Reams from entering the office in Brentwood. Last week, the attorney general’s office said the investigation was criminal and on Thursday, Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards said part of the probe involves use of money in a federal forfeiture fund. That’s a fund that uses assets given up by criminals to pay for related costs.
Edwards said investigators have interviewed more than 50 witnesses, examined documents and issued subpoenas seeking other information.
They’re also using a forensic accountant to analyze the forfeiture fund. Edwards said it would hinder the investigation if Reams was allowed in the office.
“One of the reasons (for the suspension) was to be able to have an unfettered investigation,” she said, including talking to employees who might act differently if the boss – Reams – was present.
Reams’ lawyer, Michael Ramsdell, has argued that his client needs details of the allegations as he pursues his case that Foster had no authority to suspend him.
“I don’t dispute that the attorney general can temporarily suspend a county attorney but he has to meet particular standards,” Ramsdell said, noting that previous suspensions of county law enforcement officials came after criminal charges were filed.
McNamara, though, said the public would lose confidence in the legal system if a prosecutor was allowed to remain on the job while under criminal investigation.
The judge also wants the state to move as quickly as possible, saying it can’t keep Reams suspended indefinitely. Edwards countered that the investigation is in its early stages.
Some of the other allegations against Reams include sexual harassment and making inappropriate comments to women in his office.
Reams has been county attorney since 1998. He continues to receive his $85,000 annual salary while he’s suspended.