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January 28. 2014 9:19PM

Suspended Rockingham County attorney invited to review county budget


A subcommittee of county delegation members called in embattled Rockingham County Attorney James Reams to review the proposed 2014 instead of the interim-replacement who drafted the budget. (JAMES A. KIMBLE/FILE PHOTO)

BRENTWOOD — A subcommittee of the county delegation opted to meet with suspended Rockingham County Attorney James Reams on Monday for a budget meeting — after telling the interim county attorney the meeting was cancelled.

Reams was called in to review a proposed $2.9 million budget for 2014 that was crafted by interim Rockingham County Attorney Jim Boffetti.

Delegation members also agreed to switch the location of their meeting Monday to their offices instead of the county attorney's office.

Those backing the sudden change criticized both the motive and lack of information about the ongoing investigation by state and federal authorities into the operations of the Rockingham County Attorney's Office. Reams was suspended Nov. 6.

"It's all political in my mind," state Rep. Kenneth Wyler, R-Kingston, said of the investigation on Tuesday. "And am I going to cooperate with this? No."

Weyler said Reams, who has held his post since 1998, was better suited to weigh in on the county prosecutor's budget than Boffetti. Weyler added that Reams had been working prior to his suspension on long-term issues such as employee retention.

"Does the temporary guy know enough of the budget and what you have to do for a full year? I am thinking possibly not," Weyler said.

Weyler criticized some of Boffetti's decisions, including the departure of Tom Reid, who resigned on Jan. 17 from his job as deputy county attorney.

Reid, a 16-year employee, had been placed on administrative leave by county commissioners on Nov. 6. Weyler said Reid was forced to resign or else be fired.

Boffetti said in an interview he could not comment about Reid's departure because it is a personnel matter.

State Rep. Norm Major, R-Plaistow, said he was not able to attend Monday's meeting, but supported having Reams present.

Major expressed frustration over not knowing what led to Reid's departure two weeks ago, and the status of the investigation into Reams' suspension.

"Do they have something on him (Reams)? If so, charge him. If not, let him go back to his duty," Major said. "After two and a half months, they should bring us up to date."

Boffetti said he learned that Monday's meeting was still happening once it was underway at the county complex building a few miles up the road from the county attorney's office.

"I was expecting to attend, but then I received an e-mail over the weekend saying that it was cancelled," he said.

State Rep. Maureen Mann, D-Deerfield, said she was told that members of the subcommittee were e-mailed on Wednesday about the change in the meeting, but she never saw the email. She showed up at the county attorney's office Monday morning, but did not find her fellow committee members.

After a brief discussion with Boffetti and a call to the county delegation office, she arrived about 20 minutes late to find Reams at the new meeting spot.

"I was surprised because I had thought he had been relieved of duty, but when I saw him there I thought maybe that I was wrong," she said. Mann said she came home to find a voicemail message telling her about the change in location.

"He should have been told the meeting was changed," Mann said of Boffetti. "He should have been told he was not invited."

A county commissioner said he was shocked when he learned that Reams was called in to review the proposed budget.

"They know Jim Reams is under investigation by state and federal investigators for alleged criminal activity," said County Commissioner Vice Chairman Kevin Coyle. "Why in God's green earth would you allow him to work on a budget? What they tried to do is make a political statement that we are backing our boy."

jkimble@newstote.com


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