Last year, state and federal authorities took away control of the Rockingham County Attorney’s office from the voters. The elected county prosecutor, Jim Reams, was locked out. Attorney General Joe Foster promised that the extraordinary step would be a “temporary” measure during a special investigation of allegations supposedly including sexual harassment, financial mismanagement and inappropriate testimony.
Four months later, the investigation apparently continues. There is no sign of urgency. The interim prosecutor is still in charge, although his emergency appointment went without proper approval for an absurd three months. Two county employees have resigned, but no one has been charged with anything. The disenfranchised residents of Rockingham County remain in the dark.
This has gone on far too long.
In January, Superior Court Judge Richard B. MacNamara ruled that Reams should not serve while the probe continued because any “average citizen” facing prosecution might not trust a tainted county attorney’s office to seek “the type of impartial justice that the Constitution requires.” The well-respected judge had legitimate reason to worry about preserving public faith in the judicial process, but continued silence from the Attorney General’s Office and federal investigators will do just as much damage.
The public knows that like any private citizen, Reams deserves fair treatment. The vague allegations against him are troubling but woefully ill-defined. The eight-term county attorney’s political career is in ruins. He announced this week that he will not run for reelection. It is time for the prosecutors to end the secrecy and detail their accusations against him.
In New Hampshire history, only one other county attorney has been suspended by the state. Back in 1975, then-Attorney General Warren Rudman forced the Grafton’s county attorney to step aside after his arrest on misdemeanor pornography charges for showing popular X-rated films at his Littleton theater. After a jury acquitted the prosecutor, he was promptly reinstated.
The investigation may yet show that there was good cause to summarily oust Reams without an indictment or arrest. But if it does not, this case is on track to become just as memorable a blunder.