CONCORD, N.H. — A veteran county attorney will fight in court to get his job back after he was suspended amid an investigation into sexual harassment and improper handling of money.
At a hearing Wednesday, Merrimack County Superior Court Justice Richard McNamara said he’ll decide before a scheduled April 7 hearing whether to grant a motion by suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams to force prosecutors to turn over the evidence collected against him.
Reams was suspended in November as Attorney General Joseph Foster began his investigation. Foster filed a complaint this month seeking Reams’ removal from office.
Reams has denied the accusations. His lawyer, Michael Ramsdell, said Reams will be reinstated when the evidence is presented in court.
“We’ve said from the start that we didn’t think criminal charges would be brought and they haven’t been brought,” Ramsdell said. “I’ll be arguing that the attorney general abused his discretion.”
The investigation into Reams started in October with complaints of sexual harassment but led to a probe into financial wrongdoing. Reams was barred from the office during the probe, and investigators say they uncovered a pattern of financial abuse related to two funds managed by the office.
Among the allegations are that Reams improperly mixed state and federal money and then maintained complete control of how the money was spent, often going several years without filing the required accounting paperwork.
The sexual harassment claims included charges of improper touching and comments, and retaliation against women who became pregnant.
One of the key issues early on was whether a county attorney could be suspended without criminal charges being brought. Reams has not been charged with a crime and lawyers for the attorney general’s office said Wednesday there are no charges pending. They believe they have the authority to remove him on civil grounds.
McNamara said he believes the attorney general had no choice but to seek Reams’ removal based on the specific complaint brought against him.
Reams, who was not in court at Wednesday’s hastily called hearing, has said he would not run for re-election this year. Even if he is reinstated, Ramsdell said he still will not seek another term.
McNamara still must decide whether to order the attorney general to turn over the evidence Reams is seeking, including witness interviews, personnel files and other materials. Some of the evidence would be blocked from being made public.