During a Merrimack County Superior Court hearing on Dec. 19 addressing whether or not Rockingham County Attorney James Reams was properly removed from his office, an assistant attorney general stated that part of the allegations involved a federal forfeiture fund Reams had access to.
Anne Edwards told the court that the investigation was “multifaceted” and involved both “operations and management” in the office, as well as “criminal matters” looking at Reams job performance.
“We’re proceeding as quickly as possible,” she said.
The investigation began in mid-October when the Attorney General’s office received a call from a Rockingham County attorney who offered allegations of misconduct, Edwards said. The senior staff from the AG’s office met with others in Rockingham County, including six other witnesses, outside of the office itself. The U.S. Attorney’s Office as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation became involved in the investigation. All of the evidence was corroborated with others, Edwards said, and during the first three weeks of looking into the matter, the AG decided to remove Reams and did so on Nov. 6 in order to have “an unfettered investigation” and speak to more witnesses.
The next day, Edwards said, five teams of state and federal investigators showed up at the office and spent about six days looking at records and talking to more than 50 people as part of the investigation. She noted that due to those interviews, “additional financial issues as well as ethical issues” arose.
Edwards, however, did not disclose any specifics about the case.
Reams Requests Reinstatement
Before the accusations leveled by Edwards, Reams’ attorney, Michael Ramsdell, challenged not only his client’s removal from office but also requested discovery information into the investigation, a motion that was denied by Judge Richard McNamara on Dec. 18, in a 12-page order emailed to both parties.
Ramsdell said that the judge’s perception that it was a preliminary injunction was false and that he was seeking reconsideration of the decision removing Reams from office in the first place. In the only other case involving the removal of a county attorney in the state of New Hampshire, Eames vs. Rudman, in 1975, Ramsdell noted that it involved an attorney that was removed after law enforcement officials issued a misdemeanor charge against the attorney after an investigation. In this case, he said, Reams was suspended “without notice … he wasn’t even in the state … it was done in the evening … the attorney general’s error was compounded by this court, at that time, when the court granted that motion.”
McNamara and Ramsdell spent more than 40 minutes discussing the process and the issues, discussing both the Attorney General’s removal action and the outcome of the Eames vs. Rudman case. Ramsdell stated that the court was in error allowing the removal of Reams; McNamara countered that the attorney general, as top cop in the state, had powers, although limited, in these situations.
One stickler in the case came from McNamara’s ruling on discovery in which he stated that it was not his belief that the attorney general could permanently remove a county attorney from office and should not be allowed investigatory action when dealing with a civil claim. Only a criminal complaint rose to the level of removal, he stated.
Edwards, however, with assistant Attorney General Jane Young whispering to her a couple of times, disagreed, saying that it was the office’s belief that even in a civil investigation, a county attorney could be removed.
McNamara, however, challenged the assertion, saying that the attorney general had “no authority to remove … if you want to remove for misconduct, bring a complaint … outline the reasons,” which would include the discovery that Ramsdell was seeking as well as a trial.
McNamara also stated that the issue might have to be tackled by the state Supreme Court. Many other jurisdictions around the country, he noted, had all kinds of different rules. Later, McNamara said both sides had done a good job representing their sides.
After a brief recess, the parties met in private and agreed to come back before the court in 30 days to address the matter again. An action by Reams against Rockingham County Commissioners will also be scheduled for the same date, according to the judge.
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