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November 13. 2013 9:41PM

Officials say uncashed checks, nearly expired grant found in Reams' office

BRENTWOOD — Rockingham County commissioners said they were disturbed to learn that about $65,000 in uncashed checks was found inside the office of embattled County Attorney James Reams.

County commissioners learned about the checks Tuesday night after meeting with interim County Attorney Jim Boffetti.

Boffetti also secured a $30,000 state grant that was about to expire that pays half the salary for a victim-witness advocate, commissioners said.

“What concerns me about the grant and the money sitting around is that it shows a lack of concern for the business side of the county attorney’s office,” County Commissioner Kevin Coyle said Wednesday.

Commissioners said the checks and tardy response to filing for the grant were not part of a criminal investigation examining managerial and operational issues within Reams’ office.

Reams was suspended by the attorney general last Wednesday in the wake of an investigation that also led to Deputy County Attorney Tom Reid and a victim-witness advocate being placed on paid administrative leave.

An ex-employee made a complaint to the state Attorney General’s Office more than two weeks ago, which set off the investigation.

The checks were from area towns that pay the county attorney’s office for handling prosecution within their local district courts.

County Commissioner Thomas Tombarello said at least one of the checks dated back to July.

“Nobody should be holding onto a check that long,” he said. “I know one thing. It won’t happen again.”

Tombarello said other departments — such as the Registry of Deeds — make daily deposits, and that all departments should be depositing whatever revenues they have on a regular basis.

Commissioners were first alerted in late October that Reams’ office had only collected about 25 percent of its outstanding bills; that should have been closer to 75 percent, according to Coyle.

“We made the county attorney and deputy county attorney aware that those revenues hadn’t come in,” Coyle said.

Despite that warning, commissioners said they had no idea about the checks in Reams’ office.

Tombarello said commissioners have had a better hold on the revenues and expenses in departments closer to the commissioners’ office at the county complex. Reams’ office is on the bottom floor of the county courthouse.

jkimble@newstote.com


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