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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

County attorney stepping down amid sex probe

BRENTWOOD (AP) – Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams resigned Tuesday, ending a seven-month investigation into sexual harassment and financial mismanagement that roiled the prosecutor’s office.

County Commissioner Kevin Coyles said Reams’ resignation is a relief. ...

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BRENTWOOD (AP) – Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams resigned Tuesday, ending a seven-month investigation into sexual harassment and financial mismanagement that roiled the prosecutor’s office.

County Commissioner Kevin Coyles said Reams’ resignation is a relief.

“I think people are tired of hearing about it,” Coyle said. “This has been a big distraction for the last seven months since November when the attorney general’s office came in and removed him, and especially for the county attorney’s office.”

Attorney General Joseph Foster suspended Reams in November amid allegations that he mismanaged county funds and used lewd language, retaliated against women who became pregnant and inappropriately touched female staffers. Months of legal wrangling followed as Foster sought to keep Reams from the office while Reams and his lawyer, Michael Ramsdell, battled to keep him on the job.

Absent criminal charges, a judge ultimately put Reams back in office, lifting the suspension while Foster pursued a permanent ban on ethical charges.

Ramsdell said Reams will collect his salary for the rest of the year. Reams had said he would not seek another term in November to the job he has held since 1998.

“Jim believes, as was the case with the suspension proceeding, he would have prevailed,” Ramsdell said.

In a prepared statement, Foster said his petition to remove Reams from office is now moot.

“I want to commend the women who bravely came forward with their complaints of discrimination,” Foster said. “They were steadfast throughout the course of this investigation and months of litigation. These women helped send an important message: Conduct of this type cannot and will not be tolerated in the workplace.”

Foster called Reams’ conduct “inappropriate and simply unacceptable for the county’s chief law enforcement officer.”