Vote endorses attorney general oversight of Rockingham County Attorney's Office
BRENTWOOD — A proposal endorsing the attorney general’s temporary oversight of prosecutions at the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office was passed by county delegation subcommittee in a narrow 3-2 vote on Wednesday.
Officers from the delegation met for the second time to talk about how they might appoint a state prosecutor as an interim leader in the wake of James Reams deciding to leave the county attorney post.
Reams left office last Tuesday just two months before he was set to face state removal proceedings that accused him of sexual harassment, ethical violations and alleged misuse of a forfeiture account.
Reams denied any wrongdoing.
The interim-replacement would oversee prosecutions in the office until voters elect a new top prosecutor this fall in the general election, according to county delegates.
Rep. Gene Charron, R-Chester, said he supports tapping the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office to help the county attorney’s office until the fall. The state would pay for the cost of the prosecutor appointed to the position.
“That is the top law enforcement agency in the county,” said Charron. “And what I want to see is stability. Let the people decide who will be next county attorney and let’s move on.”
The state attorney general’s office, which investigated the Reams case, has been overseeing county prosecutions since Reams was suspended last November.
Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti served as interim county attorney for six months while Reams was suspended during the investigation into his office. Boffetti is expected to be reappointed as the interim leader of the office if the measure if supported by the full county delegation.
Rep. Kevin Waterhouse, R-Windham, said he was one of two votes – along with Rep. Ken Wyler, R-Kingston – opposing continued supervision by the attorney general’s office.
“Some of us blame the AG’s office for the situation we are in,” Waterhouse said. “To have the AG come in and run the county still seems to be a bad situation.”
Waterhouse believes some rank-and-file workers at the county attorney’s office do not want state oversight of the office.
The attorney general’s office has legal oversight of all county attorneys in New Hampshire and has previously stepped in during election disputes or sudden departures from office.
Charron said that if there were problems with the attorney general’s office, he would have likely heard from employees.
Under the proposal, the newly elected county attorney would be sworn in about a month early, immediately after the election. Delegation officers said last week they would not support appointing a candidate running for the county attorney job because it may give them an unfair advantage.
The plan will now move on to the county’s 13-member executive committee on Friday before reaching a full delegation vote on June 30.