Rockingham County Attorney says he will fight his suspension
BRENTWOOD – Suspended Rockingham County Attorney James Reams is taking legal action to challenge Attorney General Joe Foster's decision to temporarily remove him from office amid an investigation into managerial and operational issues in his office.
"We will be filing a pleading in Merrimack County Superior Court objecting to the Attorney General's and County Commissioners' actions," Reams' attorney, Michael Ramsdell, said Wednesday. "That's going to lay out our belief why the Attorney General's action and why the Rockingham County Commissioners' actions are unlawful under the New Hampshire Constitution."
A hearing on Foster's petition to temporarily suspend Reams is expected to happen sometime Thursday in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.
Ramsdell said Reams is "very much looking forward" to the hearing and learning more about the allegations that set off the joint state and federal investigation.
"He was suspended and barred from the office by the county without the benefit of being told anything," Ramsdell said. "To this day, he hasn't been given the opportunity to respond."
Foster and U.S. Attorney John Kacavas said Thursday that the investigation centers on "operational and managerial" issues within Reams' office, but have yet to give any details about their probe.
Foster said a former employee complained to the state more than two weeks ago.
County Commissioners placed Deputy County Attorney Tom Reid and a victim witness advocate on paid administrative leave after being briefed by investigators.
Reams was suspended last Wednesday by Foster, who said state law and a 1975 state Supreme Court case gave him the legal authority to temporarily remove a sitting county attorney from office during the investigation.
Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara approved Foster's petition to appoint Jim Boffetti as the interim county attorney, citing Reams' suspension and a decision by county commissioners to bar him from entering county offices.
If a judge decides to overturn that court order, it would restore Reams to his elected office – a position he has held since 1998.
Ramsdell said he disagrees that Foster has the authority to suspend Reams from his elected post.
"The county attorney is a constitutional officer, not just an agency head," Ramsdell said. "He is elected by the citizens of Rockingham County."
Ramsdell also addressed recent criticism his client has endured in the wake of suspension, including his traveling to conferences, and reports that female employees complained to a Portsmouth state representative about a hostile work environment.
"I can tell you the county attorney would disagree that anything unpleasant happened or there is an unhealthy work environment," Ramsdell said. "The majority of prosecutors in the office are female attorneys, and two of the three team leaders are female."
As for traveling to conference, Ramsdell said the trips were all approved by county commissioners and "much of it was not done at the county's expense."
Ramsdell said organizations asking him to participate in conferences have paid Reams' travel expenses, and Reams has brought back valuable training to his employees.