Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams to return to work today

Last modified: 4/30/2014 2:26:38 PM
Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams will return to work today – five months after the state attorney general stripped him of his prosecutorial power amid an investigation into complaints of sexual harassment and mishandling of office funds.

Reams’s attorney and Assistant Attorney General Anne Edwards signed an agreement yesterday restoring Reams’s prosecutorial powers and allowing him to return to his Brentwood office. Attorney General Joe Foster is still pursuing his bid to have a judge permanently remove Reams from office.

Reams agreed not to discipline any member of his staff unless the county commissioners are consulted and approve. And if he feels it necessary to discipline any of the assistant county attorneys, Reams must first obtain permission from Foster, according to the agreement.

Foster stripped Reams of his power to prosecute Nov. 6 – at the start of an investigation into sexual harassment and misuse of money. He has said he will not file criminal charges against Reams, but will keep trying to have him removed from office for alleged misconduct.

“From the start of this matter, an important goal of our office has been to protect employees from retaliation or other adverse employment actions arising from their cooperation in our investigation,” Foster said in a statement yesterday.

The agreement states that Foster may assign a member of his staff to monitor the operation of Reams’s office.

Earlier this month, a superior court judge ruled against Foster’s bid to keep Reams out of office until the court rules on the petition for permanent removal. The state Supreme Court last week denied both Foster’s request for a stay and his motion for an expedited hearing in the appeal.

Acting County Attorney James Boffetti will remain at the office through the week to assist with the transition. Boffetti said last week that some employees have consulted lawyers because they’re worried about retaliation by Reams upon his return.

Reams’s attorney, Michael Ramsdell, dismissed notions that Reams will retaliate against staff members. “I never saw that as a real concern whatsoever,” he said.

Reams and Ramsdell have denied that Reams used lewd language, inappropriately touched female staffers and retaliated against women who became pregnant. They also say there’s no merit to charges that he mishandled office funds.

The superior court trial on the removal petition is scheduled to begin Aug. 4.

Reams has said he won’t run again for the office he was first elected to in 1998. His term expires in January.

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