AG says Rockingham County attorney probe 'substantially complete'
BRENTWOOD — The state Attorney General's Office has "substantially completed" an investigation into suspended Rockingham County Attorney James Reams, and is prepared to file court pleadings based on their findings.
The state revealed its progress in the three-month-old probe into the operations and management of Reams' office while responding to a request by the embattled county attorney to delay a court hearing that was slated for Monday.
Reams' lawyer Michael Ramsdell said in a court filing that Reams' mother died on Feb. 25 in Nebraska, and that a funeral will be held for her on Monday.
State prosecutors said they were prepared to file their findings from the investigation this week, but agreed to hold off due to the death of Reams' mother, according to court records.
"While the attorney general was prepared to file the week of March 3, 2014, out of respect for Mr. Reams and his family, no filings will be made until after the funeral," Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards said in a court motion.
State prosecutors did not reveal any details about its investigation, which includes allegations of sexual harassment, scrutiny of a forfeiture account controlled by Reams, and his failure to disclose one of his subordinates who testified for the state had a potential credibility issue.
Reams announced on Feb. 25 that he would not seek reelection this fall, but would continue his court battle over whether Attorney General Joe Foster had the legal authority to temporarily suspend him from office during the investigation. A second lawsuit filed by Reams is challenging whether Rockingham County Commissioners had the authority to bar him from his office at the county courthouse.
Reams maintains he is a constitutional officer elected by the people, and not a traditional employee. Ramsdell said in a recent interview that Reams feels he has an obligation to voters that put him in office to finish out his term as county attorney.
"He feels that he owes them a debt for placing that trust in him," Ramsdell said. "Whatever accusations are going to be made against him, he wants to clear his name."
So far, the investigation prompted the resignation of Tom Reid, Ream's longtime deputy county attorney, and victim witness advocate Tara Longo. They were suspended alongside Reams on Nov. 6.
Judge Richard McNamara rescheduled hearings for two lawsuits filed by Reams for April 7.