November 14, 2013

N.H. official ‘flabbergasted’ by removal from office

A hearing Thursday may shed light on why Rockingham County’s top prosecutor was stripped of his authority last week.

By Lynne Tuohy
The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. – Veteran Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams, who was stripped of his prosecutorial authority last week amid a state and federal investigation, will argue the action was unjustified and unconstitutional.

Reams will be in Merrimack Superior Court on Thursday to argue it was unprecedented for Attorney General Joseph Foster to remove his authority and lock him out of his office last week.

Reams’ attorney, Michael Ramsdell, said the only other time a county attorney was removed from office was in 1975 and only after criminal charges were filed.

Ramsdell told The Associated Press that Reams has not been informed of any allegations against him by state and federal officials.

He said Reams was out-of-state and was “flabbergasted” when told by investigators that he was locked out of his office.

“Jim Reams was elected by the citizens of Rockingham County,” Ramsdell said. “He is a constitutional officer and not just someone who works for an agency.” He said there were thresholds that had to be met before a county attorney could be removed from office.

Reams has been county attorney since 1998. Ramsdell said he is being paid during his suspension.

Thursday’s hearing may prompt prosecutors to offer some information on the investigation to rebut Reams’ challenge. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young would not comment on that prospect Wednesday.

“We have to see how the hearing unfolds,” she said.

County commissioners placed Reams’ deputy county attorney, Tom Reid, on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation after being briefed by the Attorney General’s Office.

State and federal officials have not said why they’re investigating Reams, except to say they received complaints about the office.

Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti was appointed acting county attorney during the investigation.

U.S. Attorney John Kacavas said last week the investigation could take weeks.

Kacavas would not indicate whether the FBI or other agencies have obtained or used search warrants.

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