AG Wants to Remove N.H. County Attorney
Concord — Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams improperly handled and spent state and federal funds, covered up a staffer’s lie and routinely sexually harassed his female employees, the New Hampshire attorney general said Tuesday in asking a judge to remove Reams from office.
Reams already has said he would not run for re-election this year, but the complaint filed in Merrimack County Superior Court by Attorney General Joseph Foster seeks his removal.
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 funds and then maintained complete control of how the funds were spent, often going several years without filing the required accounting paperwork. When he did file the paperwork, he would sign as both the requesting agency and the lawyer representing the agency, in violation of requirements.
Reams’ lawyer, Michael Ramsdell, said his client denies the accusations.
“I can tell you that County Attorney Reams is glad there’s finally a public complaint filed so he can respond to it and defend against it,” Ramsdell said. “And we note that there are no allegations of criminal conduct here, which previously here has been the threshold for which a county attorney has been removed from office.”
Reams, a Republican first elected in 1998, has not been charged with a crime.
“His misconduct far exceeds the ordinary misjudgment standard for removal,” Foster said in his complaint.
Foster’s complaint said Reams spent nearly $250,000 over 10 years on things like travel to county attorney meetings in Hawaii, San Diego, Quebec and other places. There were also instances of Reams ordering equipment and having rebate checks issued directly to him. Reams instructed a staffer to take the signed check to TD Bank to be cashed.
“When she returned with the cash in an envelope, on many occasions she saw him put the money in his pocket,” Foster wrote in his complaint.
Other claims of financial misconduct include improperly claiming a daily allowance for meals using county funds and then charging for reimbursement while also charging the county again for the meals separately. Documentation supporting the expenses included memos in which Reams authorized his own spending.
During the probe, investigators also learned that a victim/witness advocate lied about having a college degree when she applied for employment and that Reams knew of the lie but said nothing, potentially jeopardizing prosecutions in which the advocate was called as a witness.
The initial complaint of sexual harassment paint the picture of an office where Reams made vulgar comments, demonstrated inappropriate behavior including touching, and discriminated and retaliated against staffers who became pregnant. His repeated actions earned him the nickname “creepy Uncle Jim” among women in the office, according to Foster’s complaint.
That behavior was investigated in 1999, shortly after Reams took office, and then-Attorney General Phil McLaughlin reported that it appeared Reams recognized the problem.
“We are satisfied that you now realize that the issues which were raised in the allegations forwarded to us were serious,” he wrote to Reams.
Reams, however, replied that he was “disappointed” with the letter and said it was a “major leap” to determine the workplace was hostile.