BRENTWOOD — Suspended Rockingham County Attorney James Reams has warned county commissioners he will take legal action if he is not allowed to access his office by this afternoon.
But there’s no chance Reams will be allowed to return to his office at the Rockingham County Courthouse, County Commissioner Kevin Coyle said yesterday.
“He said he’s been prevented from returning and wants to return,” Coyle said.
Michael Ramsdell, Reams’ attorney, notified the three commissioners by letter Thursday afternoon that his client will file a lawsuit tomorrow if he is not allowed access.
Ramsdell said in an email yesterday afternoon he had not received a response from Coyle or fellow commissioners Thomas Tombarello and Katherin Pratt. He declined to comment further. He would not confirm a report that the attorney general’s office has asked Reams to resign.
Ramsdell’s letter states that commissioners must reverse their decision of Nov. 6 to bar Reams from entering his office and forcing him to return any county property, including cases files.
Failure to do so will result in a lawsuit demanding relief and reimbursement of legal fees, Ramsdell states in the letter.
“County Attorney Reams has patiently waited almost one month for the Commissioners to advise him that he may return to the County Attorney’s Office and reacquire his county property, thereby allowing him to resume at least some of his constitutional obligations to the Rockingham County citizens who elected him,” Ramsdell wrote.
Reams is to appear before Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara on Dec. 19 to seek reinstatement to his $85,000-a-year position. The Hampton resident has held the elective post since 1998.
Reams, Deputy County Attorney Thomas Reid and a third unidentified employee in the office were placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 6 while state and federal authorities, including the FBI, investigated “management and operational issues” within the office.
Attorney General Joseph Foster also suspended Reams’ powers as a prosecutor. No further details were given by the attorney general’s office or the U.S. attorney’s office. Representatives from those offices have said they will not comment while Reams is still being investigated.
Ramsdell claims Foster has no right to suspend an elected official unless there is criminal evidence. He has also said Reams was punished without being given a chance to defend himself.
“He has overstepped his constitutional authority,” Ramsdell said of Foster last month.
Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti is serving as interim county attorney in Reams’ absence.
Ramsdell has defended Reams’ work as county attorney. He also defended him against reports that female attorneys in the office complained to Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, a year ago that they were not being treated fairly.
Reams and Ramsdell appeared before McNamara on Nov. 14, but the reinstatement hearing was postponed until this month. The judge requested more information from Ramsdell and Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards.
The hearing was to be held Dec. 5, but was delayed at Ramsdell’s request until Dec. 19.
Coyle questioned why Reams would file a lawsuit against the commissioners before his reinstatement hearing is held.
“I don’t know why he would threaten a lawsuit against the commissioners when there is a hearing the 19th,” Coyle said.
Tombarello said yesterday he wasn’t authorized to comment on the case. Pratt could not be reached.
There has been only one other occasion in 200 years that a New Hampshire county attorney has been removed from office and that 1975 case involved criminal charges, according to Ramsdell.