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Welcome to the NEW Atkinson Reporter! Under new management, with new resolve.

The purpose of this Blog is to pick up where the Atkinson Reporter has left off. "The King is dead, Long live the King!" This Blog is a forum for the discussion of predominantly Atkinson; Officials, People, Ideas, and Events. You may give opinion, fact, or evaluation, but ad hominem personal attacks will not be tolerated, or published. The conversation begun on the Atkinson Reporter MUST be continued!

This Blog will not fall to outside hacks from anyone, especially insecure public officials afraid of their constituents criticism.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Retirement may bring changes to Atkinson office

Atkinson selectmen to consider changes
By Dustin Luca
 The Eagle Tribune Sun Jun 22, 2014, 12:36 AM EDT
ATKINSON — Planning and Zoning Administrator Susan Killam has said she plans to retire, creating a chance for town officials to take a closer look at the Planning Department.
Killam has led the department for about four years and served on the Planning Board for more than 25. She is its current chairman.
She hopes to retire between 12 and 18 months from now, she said. With the window so far out, a date hasn’t been selected. She said she plans to remain a member of the board after she retires, Killam said.
Killam works about 15 hours a week on average, with office hours Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., she said.
It’s enough hours to “get enough paperwork done, to support the board and all the inspections,” Killam said.
Planning departments are handled differently from town to town. As town sizes change and development needs evolve, so do the demands on a department, she said.
“You walk into the Town Hall in Hampstead, and there’s a sign that says, ‘Assessing and Building Department,’” Killam said. “Here, assessing and building are completely separate, other than using the same computer database.”
Town officials are looking at the department to see how it could change, given Killam’s retirement is at least a year away.
“She has a wealth of knowledge and has been a great asset to the community and town officials,” Selectmen’s Chairman William Baldwin said. “The biggest challenge we’re going to have, really, is to quantify that position and make it to what it’s supposed to be.”
The Planning Board has six regular members with an ex-officio member from the Board of Selectmen and up to three alternates. They’re all appointed by the Board of Selectmen. The Planning Board appoints its own chairman.
Killam had no suggestions for changes that could be made, saying changes will depend on what’s going on around town.
“There isn’t anything big going on,” she said. “Development is so slow in Atkinson that we haven’t seen much.”
One area that could use more attention is the town’s industrial district, which Killam said is underutilized.
“We have a very small industrial zone,” Killam said. “There are vacant lots in the industrial zone that have been vacant since the early ‘90s.”
Selectmen haven’t talked about Killam’s retirement or changes to the department yet, Baldwin said.
But he said he could think of a couple tweaks that could be made.
Among them are increasing the pay and hours of the job to attract a stronger field of candidates when the time comes to hire for the position, he said.
“I don’t think we need to make it full-time,” Baldwin said, “but I think we need to make it more hours.”
Killam’s salary wasn’t available, Town Administrator Bill Innes said.
Selectmen will start discussions soon and Killam will play an important role in that, Baldwin said.
“She’s going to play an integral part in how we develop this office,” Baldwin said, “to what it needs to be — or to continue on with it — to make it a better service for our residents.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reams barred from appointing replacement

Conway is a candidate for county attorney
By Doug Ireland
The Eagle Tribune Thu Jun 19, 2014, 12:28 AM EDT
BRENTWOOD — Former Rockingham County Attorney James Reams’ decision to appoint Patricia Conway as his interim replacement is being called an inappropriate and illegal move.
Conway, a longtime assistant county attorney, was chosen Tuesday by Reams to serve until the county delegation appointed his successor or voters elected a new county attorney this fall.
But an agreement reached in April between Reams and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office stipulates that he had no right to appoint Conway, a Republican candidate for the position in the September primary.
The agreement outlines the provisions under which Reams could return to his $85,000-a-year job after being suspended with pay by county commissioners Nov. 6.
Attorney General Joseph Foster also revoked Reams’ authority as a prosecutor in the wake of allegations he sexually harassed female employees, committed ethical violations while in office and mismanaged county money.
Reams stepped down Tuesday after 15 years, saying he decided to retire and accept a $42,000 buyout of the remaining five months of his contract from county commissioners. The commissioners said Reams agreed to resign, prompting him to say their announcement was “erroneous.”
Associate Attorney General Jane Young and County Commissioner Kevin Coyle of Derry confirmed yesterday that Reams had no right to appoint Conway. The move has also drawn criticism from other candidates for county attorney.
The Attorney General’s Office fought to have Reams removed from office, but he was reinstated by Merrimack Superior Judge Richard McNamara. A hearing on his removal was scheduled for Aug. 4, but canceled after Reams agreed to step down.
The three-page agreement between the Attorney General’s Office and Reams, approved by McNamara on April 29, set restrictions on the county attorney’s return.
Reams was allowed to reassign the responsibilities of former Deputy County Attorney Thomas Reid, who was also suspended Nov. 6, along with victim-witness advocate Tara Longo. Reid and Longo were later cleared by the Attorney General’s Office, but resigned from their positions.
Young said the agreement “clearly” states Reams could not appoint Conway.
“County Attorney Reams shall not, however, formally install an assistant county attorney as deputy county attorney,” the agreement says.
Young said late yesterday afternoon she could not comment further on the matter and that she was on her way to meet with the three county commissioners to discuss replacing Reams.
“We want to make sure there is an administration of justice in that office,” she said.
Also yesterday, the Attorney General’s Office announced that a member of Reams’ staff, Assistant County Attorney Zachary Cross, was arrested Tuesday on a drug charge.
Cross, 29, was arrested by the New Hampshire Drug Task Force and the Manchester Police Department and charged with possessing Oxycodone, a painkiller. Young said she could not comment further on the arrest.
Young did say that Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti returned to supervise the county’s attorney office yesterday and that Foster is discussing with county legislative leaders the possibility of filling the post.
Boffetti oversaw the office during Reams’ six-month suspension. He will remain there as the 46-member legislative delegation decides if it will appoint a replacement, Young said.
The Attorney General’s Office offered to have a member of its office oversee operations if a replacement wasn’t appointed by the delegation.
Delegation Chairman Rep. Norman Major, R-Plaistow, said his group’s executive committee isn’t scheduled to meet until at least early July. Reams notified Major of his decision to appoint Conway on Tuesday afternoon, saying “she is the most qualified, has the longest tenure and experience of anyone in the office.”
Neither Conway nor Reams could be reached yesterday for comment. Reams defended her in an interview Tuesday.
Conway is the husband of former Salem police officer Eric Lamb, whose name Reams is accused of removing from the state’s Laurie List of law enforcement officers whose credibility could be questioned if they are asked to testify in court.
Coyle criticized Reams’ appointment of Conway, saying he never notified county commissioners of the decision. He also said Conway — one of five county attorney candidates — should not have accepted the position.
“It’s another one of Jim’s shenanigans,” Coyle said. “She should have known better and said, ‘I don’t want any part of that.’”

Editorial: Reams had become an unwelcome distraction

Whether he chooses to call it a resignation or a retirement, the departure of James Reams from the Rockingham County attorney’s office is welcome news.
Following a suspension, investigation and the attempt by county commissioners to force him from office over allegations of mismanagement of department funds and sexual harassment of female staffers, Reams had become a distraction who was not serving the people of Rockingham County well.
Reams, 66, has been accused of a long list of misdeeds and mismanagement in recent months. In November, he was suspended by county commissioners and his prosecutorial authority was stripped by Attorney General Joseph Foster over allegations he mismanaged county money and sexually harassed female employees. The attorney general’s office accused Reams of having inappropriate contact with women in his office, telling them not to get pregnant and retaliating against those who did. The AG’s office also said Reams would also invite employees to bring their bathing suits to his home to use his hot tub, earning him the nickname “Creepy Jim.”
Reams denied the allegations.
Reams was ordered reinstated to his job by Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara in April. But Reams’ problems on the job continued, according to county commissioners.
Reams was accused of removing the name of a former Salem police officer, Eric Lamb, from the state’s Laurie List, a list of law enforcement officers with credibility issues that could jeopardize court cases. Lamb is the husband of Patricia Conway, an assistant county attorney who is one of five candidates running to replace Reams in the September primary.
In the letter to the county commissioners announcing his departure, Reams named Conway acting deputy county attorney and placed her in charge of the office.
“Since Jim has been back, the situation hasn’t gotten any better,” Commissioner Thomas Tombarello said. “We were told he wasn’t there to perform his job. I just felt there were a lot of problems in that office.”
Commissioner Kevin Coyle cited an ongoing problem with factionalism in the county attorney’s office.
“Since he’s been back, we’ve had more issues,” Coyle said. “He really hasn’t been an effective leader since he’s been back.”
Reams lambasted the county commissioners for their interference in his management of the office.
“They were constantly doing illegal things,” he told reporter Doug Ireland. “There is no petty thing they wouldn’t do.”
In an agreement announced Tuesday afternoon, the County Commission said Reams had resigned and would be paid his salary for the remainder of the year, which amounts to about $42,000.
Reams disputed the characterization of his departure as a resignation, saying that he was “retiring because they made it worth my while.”
It is now up to the 46 members of the Rockingham County legislative delegation to decide how to handle a replacement for Reams. Their best decision would be to take up Attorney General Foster on his offer to provide interim leadership for the office. Voters are fortunate that they have a field of well qualified candidates from which to choose in the upcoming election.
It is unfortunate that Reams’ 15-year career as the county’s chief prosecutor had to end on a sour note. However, Reams brought this misfortune upon himself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reams says he retired, not resigned

By Doug Ireland
 The Eagle Tribune Wed Jun 18, 2014, 09:03 AM EDT
BRENTWOOD — Rockingham County Attorney James Reams agreed yesterday to step down, appointing Patricia Conway as deputy county attorney until a replacement is named.
It marked the end of Reams’ tumultuous 15-year career as the county’s top lawyer.
The three-member county commission announced yesterday afternoon it reached a settlement with Reams that he resign, paying the remainder of his $85,000-a-year salary through Jan. 1. That comes to about $42,000, Commissioner Kevin Coyle said.
But Reams, 66, disputed the commission’s account, saying he agreed to retire and that it was “erroneous” to say he resigned.
“It’s a crock,” he said. “I did not resign, I’m retiring. ... I’m retiring because they made it worth my while.”
Attorney General Joseph Foster confirmed Reams is retiring and said his office will no longer pursue the county attorney’s removal from office. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for Aug. 4 in Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, but will be canceled.
Before leaving office, Reams notified the state’s legislative delegation that Conway would oversee the office in the interim.
Conway is an assistant county attorney and one of five people running to replace Reams in the September primary after he decided not to seek re-election.
The County Commission voted, 2-1, to accept the agreement, with Coyle and Thomas Tombarello in favor and Chairwoman Katharin Pratt in opposition.
The 46 members of the county’s legislative delegation must now decide if they want to replace Reams and who that person would be, commissioners said. Delegation Chairman Norman Major, R-Plaistow, said a meeting would be scheduled, but he didn’t know when.
The Attorney General’s Office has offered to have one of its attorneys run the office in the interim, Foster said.
Reams was suspended by commissioners in November and his prosecutorial authority stripped by Foster amid allegations he mismanaged county money and sexually harassed female employees.
The Attorney General’s Office accused Reams of having inappropriate physical contact with the employees, telling women not to get pregnant and retaliating against those who did. He earned the nickname “Creepy Jim.”
He also would invite employees to bring their bathing suits to his home for drinks and so they could use his hot tub, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Reams denied the allegations and said he never touched anyone in his office.
Yesterday, Foster praised the employees in Reams’ office who came forward with complaints about their boss.
“I commend the women who brought these complaints forward,” he said. “It sends an important message that gender discrimination won’t be tolerated.”
Reams was reinstated by Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara in April after he and his attorney, Michael Ramsdell, claimed his suspension was unlawful.
Reams said at about 5 p.m. yesterday he had just cleaned out his office and said farewell to his employees.
“Some of them are unhappy I’m leaving and others said they understand why I’m leaving,” he said.
Reams and Ramsdell continued to insist the county attorney was innocent of the allegations.
Reams said he spent more than $80,000 in legal fees defending himself and planned to retire later this year anyway.
“At some point, you have to stop,” he said.
Reams said the County Commission constantly interfered with his running of the office, not allowing him to hire or post positions.
“They were constantly doing illegal things,” he said. “There is no petty thing they wouldn’t do.”
Reams said he’s deciding whether to continue his legal career or spend more time working on his house on Lake Winnipesaukee.
“I have had some job offers,” he said. “But I’ve always said I would be happy pumping gas at a marina.”
Reams disputed commissioners’ allegations that he had a rocky return to office following his suspension.
“There hasn’t been issue with any employee since I’ve been back,” he said.
Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti oversaw the office in Reams’ absence, and is a likely candidate to replace him if the delegation does not choose to appoint a replacement, Foster said.
The replacement must reside in the county, Foster said. Since Reams’ return, Senior Assistant Attorney General Janice Rundles has overseen the office
Commissioners said the problems with Reams’ return came to a head recently when the Attorney General’s Office brought new allegations against him. Reams was accused of removing the name of a former Salem police officer, Eric Lamb, from the state’s Laurie List.
Lamb is Conway’s husband.
The Laurie List includes the names of law enforcement officers with credibility concerns that could jeopardize court cases if they are asked to testify.
Pratt and Coyle said Reams offered to resign after the Laurie List allegations came to light earlier this spring. The two sides had been negotiating for the last two weeks before reaching an agreement yesterday morning.
Reams said he never offered to resign and that it was the commissioners who asked him to step down.
Coyle and Tombarello said the commission accepted the offer because they thought Reams had been too much of a distraction.
“Since he’s been back, we’ve had more issues,” Coyle said. “He really hasn’t been an effective leader since he’s been back.”
Coyle cited the Laurie List issue. He also said there continue to be factions in the approximately 40-employee office, with those who supported Reams and those who did not.
Tombarello agreed.
“Since Jim has been back, the situation hasn’t gotten any better,” Tombarello said. “We were told he wasn’t there to perform his job. I just felt there were a lot of problems in that office.”
Pratt said she voted against accepting the agreement because she believed the matter should have gone to court and that settling the issue would send the wrong message.
“The woman who filed complaints deserve their day in court, as does Jim,” she said.
Some of the county attorney candidates issued statements yesterday, including Democrat Joseph Plaia and Republicans Jason Grosky and Michael DiCroce.
They are running along with Conway and Michael Zaino. Both are Republicans.
“As county attorney, I will restore credibility, honesty and fairness to the office to ensure justice is served for all,” Grosky said.
DiCroce said “it’s time for a fresh start and an end to questionable ethics.”
Plaia said Reams made the proper choice to step down and he would provide new leadership if elected.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Reams faces allegtions involving officer

Allegations focus on state's Laurie List By Doug Ireland The Eagle Tribune Wed Jun 04, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT BRENTWOOD — Rockingham County Attorney James Reams faces new allegations as he seeks to clear his name in the wake of an attempt to permanently remove him from office. Reams, investigated for sexual harassing female employees, is now accused by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office of removing the name of former Salem police Officer Eric Lamb from the state’s Laurie List. The list, maintained by each county attorney in the state, includes the names of law enforcement officers with credibility concerns. Those officers could jeopardize a criminal case if asked to testify in court, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti. Boffetti, who served as interim county attorney during Reams’ six-month suspension that ended in May, confirmed yesterday that Lamb’s name was recently returned to the list after being “erroneously” listed as cleared. “There is a new issue that’s been raised that Mr. Reams removed someone from the list that should still be on it,” Boffetti said. An internal memo from Boffetti, dated May 1, asks county prosecutors to notify the Attorney General’s Office of any cases they have involving Lamb in which he was called to testify as a witness. Lamb is the husband of Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway, a longtime member of the office and a candidate to replace Reams as county attorney. Neither Conway nor Lamb could be reached yesterday for comment. Boffetti declined to comment further, referring questions to Associate Attorney General Jane Young. She confirmed the new allegations against Reams, but said she could not comment specifically about Lamb or any officer on the Laurie List. The officer’s name was redacted from a 29-page complaint released by the Attorney General’s Office yesterday. Young also would not comment when asked if Conway is being investigated in connection with the case. Only Reams and his legal assistant were known to have access to the Laurie List, but it’s not believed the assistant would make changes unless directed to do so by the county attorney, according to the Attorney General’s Office. The new allegations against Reams, filed three weeks ago, will be presented to Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara in August . That’s when he hears the Attorney General Office’s request to remove the 15-year county attorney from office, Young said. In addition to the sexual harassment allegations, the Attorney General’s Office also accuses Reams of mishandling county funds and mismanaging his office. Reams said yesterday he could not comment on Laurie List cases. He said his office has been as “busy as ever” since he was reinstated a month ago. He has decided not to seek re-election in the September primary. Lamb, a 16-year member of the Salem Police Department, was suspended in 2008 and demoted from sergeant to master patrolman after he failed to comply with orders and lied to authorities. He filed a lawsuit against the town, police Chief Paul Donovan and Capt. John Lozowski, accusing the two police officials of trying to force him from his job. Lamb acknowledged in the lawsuit that he was accused of not showing up for a police assignment Aug. 1, 2008, and failing to comply with orders on at least three occasions. He was terminated three months later. Lamb fought for his job and challenged placement of his name on the Laurie List. He and the town later settled the case. Lamb was granted back pay, sick leave and vacation time. He also was reinstated under the condition he agree to resign, but his name was to remain on the Laurie List, according to court documents. Concerns about Lamb’s credibility were raised in 2009, prior to the second-degree murder trial for Scott Hanks, 50 of Salem. Hanks was charged with fatally stabbing William Solberg of Pelham in April 2008. Lamb was one of the first officers to arrive at the murder scene. Prosecutors decided they wouldn’t call Lamb as a witness after learning of the credibility concerns. Hanks pleaded guilty before the case went to trial. Salem Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said yesterday the department could not comment on Lamb’s employment as part of the settlement reached with the former officer. Patten did say the Salem Police Department has been in contact with the Attorney General’s Office. But he said the Laurie List issue involves the county attorney’s office, not his department.