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December 12, 2013

Reams case heads to court today

Complaints include sexual harassment, not properly distributing county money

BRENTWOOD — The lawyer for Rockingham County Attorney James Reams will appear in court today to find out why his client was suspended.

In a court motion filed this week, Reams admits there have been several complaints of inappropriate conduct made against him over the years he believes will be raised during his reinstatement hearing Dec. 19.

They include allegations the eight-term county attorney called a woman in his office “babe,” and that some female employees believe he “enjoys when they wear high heels.”

He also was accused of touching an assistant county attorney after informing her a button on her blouse had come undone, showing her bra and cleavage. At another time, Reams allegedly touched her on the thigh.

While Reams and attorney Michael Ramsdell claim these and other alleged inappropriate incidents didn’t occur, the county attorney does admit to joking he hoped his employees did not become pregnant, the motion said. The attorney general’s office investigated the “babe” remark and was not able to prove Reams made the comment.

Reams also was accused of making inappropriate remarks about birth control, victims and “assistant county attorneys going on trips with him under sexually suggestive conditions,” the motion said.

“I can tell you I didn’t touch any woman sexually in that office or any other place,” Reams said yesterday. “I think there are agendas at work here. It’s clearly to make me unelectable.”

Sexual harassment allegations and the diversion of county money have become a central focus of the investigation against Reams, county commissioners said yesterday. The commissioners met with Attorney General Joseph Foster and representatives from his office for about two hours Tuesday.

Reams, Deputy County Attorney Thomas Reid and a third unidentified employee were placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 6 while state and federal authorities, including the FBI, investigated “management and operational issues” within the office. Foster suspended Reams’ authority as a prosecutor.

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