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Rockingham County official looking at less spending

BRENTWOOD — Interim County Attorney James Boffetti wants to resolve roughly $3,800 in outstanding debt that has been accruing from penalties and late fees on a county credit card since about 2007.

Boffetti told a budget subcommittee that they should expect less spending from the county attorney’s office on the credit card, and for expenses such as travel and in-state lunches.

The credit card expense was among the examples that Boffetti said he presented to a subcommittee weighing changes to the proposed $2.9 million budget for the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office.

Those who attended Friday’s subcommittee meeting described the atmosphere as cordial — a sharp contrast from the terse discourse that came late last month when Boffetti’s appearance before the subcommittee was suddenly cancelled.

At the last-minute, the group of legislators opted for a Jan. 27 meeting with embattled County Attorney James Reams instead.

Reams has been suspended from his prosecutorial duties amid a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s Office. Reams has denied any wrongdoing.

The subcommittee added back $9,500 to line items for conferences, training and travel reimbursement — areas that Boffetti had trimmed — at the suggestion of Reams.

Rep. Kenneth Wyler, R-Kingston, said members of the subcommittee will meet briefly at the Statehouse on Wednesday to decide on any changes to the proposed budget, including a possible three percent pay increase for assistant county attorneys.

“It was a pretty neutral meeting,” Wyler said.

Wyler said a longer-term discussion is expected to continue regarding retention and pay scales of county prosecutors in order to increase retention in the office. Wyler said he remained skeptical of the investigation into Reams, suggesting that it’s politically motivated.

Boffetti said he did a top-down review of county expenses in crafting the 2014 budget for the county prosecutor’s office.

The ongoing credit card expense, he said, was largely due to jackets that were bought for prosecutors to wear while they were working on-call shifts. The expense had not been authorized by county commissioners, so the $600 in costs for jackets accrued late fees that ran on average $640 per year, according to Boffetti.

While the amount of money was not huge, Boffetti said it made little sense to let the expense to continue to grow at the expense of taxpayers.

He said commissioners will ultimately have to decide on how to resolve the credit card issue.

Boffetti estimated that Reams spent roughly $19,000 for his own travel since 2007, along with hundreds of dollars for in-state meals.

That money did not include funds used for travel from a forfeiture account once maintained by Reams, which is being scrutinized by investigators.

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