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November 13, 2013

County attorney challenges his suspension

Court hearing for suspension is today

BRENTWOOD — Rockingham County Attorney James Reams is challenging his suspension in court today, claiming he should not have been placed on administrative leave.

Reams has been ordered to stay away from his office, where the FBI and New Hampshire attorney general’s office are investigating “management and operational issues.”

The hearing at 1 p.m. in Merrimack Superior Court comes after county commissioners said they were told approximately $70,000 in uncashed checks were found in the county attorney’s office.

Michael Ramsdell, Reams’ attorney, said yesterday the attorney general’s office and commissioners had no constitutional authority to take action against his client because he is an elected official.

Attorney General Joseph Foster suspended Reams’ authority as a prosecutor Nov. 6. The commissioners then placed him on paid administrative leave, along with Deputy County Attorney Thomas Reid and an unidentified victim’s advocate.

Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti was appointed interim county attorney, following a judge’s approval of an emergency court order.

“We are going to request that the court vacate the order,” Ramsdell said. “We believe the attorney general and the county commissioners have overstepped their constitutional authority.”

Ramsdell also said Reams, a Hampton Republican first elected in 1998, was suspended without being given a chance to defend himself against the allegations.

“He hasn’t had a chance to respond to them or cooperate,” Ramsdell said. “Jim Reams’ record stands for itself.”

Foster said his office began investigating the county attorney’s office after receiving a complaint from a former employee three weeks ago. The attorney general’s office and FBI interviewed other former employees and asked the U.S. attorney’s office for help as well.

County Commissioner Kevin Coyle said the FBI was still interviewing employees in the 39-employee office this week.

Although he acknowledged Reams and his attorney have a right to challenge the decision, Coyle said he stands behind the action taken.

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