In a 25-page complaint issued today, the Attorney General's Office and the Rockingham County Commission outline their complaints against suspended County Attorney James Reams.

The complaint cites a pattern of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, "ethical lapses" and improper use of county funds.

The complaint requests Reams's immediate removal.

Reams manipulated a forfeiture fund, spending almost $250,000 between 2003 and 2013, according to the complaint. Some of the money was spent on travel, meals, office equipment and more, the complaint states.

The complaint also alleges Reams was aware former victim/witness advocate Tara Longo had lied on her resume, but failed to notify prosecutors of such, potentially putting cases in jeopardy. He was required by law, the state claims, to notify the trial court and defense counsel of that fact.

The charges of sexual harassment started almost immediately after Reams took office in 1999, according to the complaint.

"Based on the current AGO investigation, it appears Reams's inappropriate behavior never abated," the complaint says.

Furthermore, that behavior had a negative effect on morale and productivity, and led to the departure of many from Reams's office, the complaint alleges.

The state says Reams used county funds for his own benefit — and that of his office — and tried to conceal that activity from county officials.

Reams is charged with using fines collected under the state's liquor laws and forfeiture funds. In 2003, the state alleges, Reams opened an account for those funds, an account he retained sole control over. He also comingled federal equitable sharing money with those forfeiture funds, according to the complaint, with disregard for state and federal law.

The state says forfeiture funds should not go to nor be used for the prosecuting agency. Yet, the complaint says, for at least eight years, Reams continued to deposit those fines in the account over which he had sole control.

When the County Commission raised questions in 2012, Reams misinformed them, the complaint states.

"Reams's lack of honesty and candor in the management of his forfeiture account make him unfit to be the county's chief law enforcement officer," the complaint says.

Between 2007 and 2013, Reams traveled widely — to Honolulu, Orlando, Washington, D.C., and beyond, according to the complaint. Some of those trips were funded through his office's budget, the complaint says, but many were not. Those other trips, the state claims, were funded through the forfeiture account with "no county approval or oversight."

"Documentation regarding Reams's travel reimbursements included memos from Reams to Reams authorizing payment," the complaint states. "Checks drawn from the forfeiture account were made payable to Reams, and signed by Reams."

The state also alleges a pattern of inappropriate behavior toward female employees by Reams. The complaints range from comments about women's attire to their relationships to remarks about insurance coverage for birth control.

"Reams's conduct toward women in his office earned him the nickname 'creepy Uncle Jim' among some of his employees," the complaint states.

In 2012, Reams was the subject of an investigation by the Rockingham County Human Resources Department.

"(Human Resources) concluded that a hostile work environment existed and that retaliation had occurred," the complaint says.

Reams accepted no responsibility for his actions nor the work environment, according to the state.

"His misconduct far exceeds the ordinary misjudgment standard for removal," the complaint states. "His actions were deliberate, pervasive and breached the public's trust inherent in the duties of a county attorney."

A hearing originally scheduled for today on Reams's request for reinstatement was postponed until April 7 because Reams's mother died recently.



This Week's Circulars