Judge sets deadline for decision on suspended Jefferson County Clerk

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By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 8, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A federal judge has ordered Florida's governor to act quickly in the ongoing suspension of Jefferson County Clerk Kirk Reams.

Reams was suspended in October 2017 and has been on unpaid suspension ever since.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled this week that the governor and Senate violated Reams' rights to due process.

"This case presents a question under the Due Process Clause: whether an elected state official who has a property or liberty interest in his position may be suspended for more than a year without being afforded any opportunity to be heard. The answer is no," Judge Hinkle wrote in his Tuesday order.

He ordered the governor and Senate to give Reams a chance to present his side of the story and make a decision by November 30.

"What it means is the governor and the Senate have violated Kirk Reams’ due process rights," Reams' lawyer David Collins said. "What it doesn’t mean is the judge is making any decisions on the merits of the suspension."

Reams was suspended within days of his arrest. The governor's suspension cited an FDLE investigation into allegations that Reams let his girlfriend use a county computer and allegations that he took nude photos of her inside the courthouse.

Reams was later found not guilty of theft charges at trial.

The federal judge has now issued an injunction requiring the governor "to vacate his order suspending Mr. Reams unless (a) the Governor has provided Mr. Reams an appropriate opportunity to be heard or (b) the Senate has reinstated Mr. Reams or (c) the Senate has removed Mr. Reams after an appropriate hearing."


By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 18, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – A federal judge is giving Governor Rick Scott and the State Senate until November 30 to address the year-long suspension of Jefferson County Clerk Kirk Reams.

Reams was suspended from office one year ago on Thursday following accusations that he allowed his former girlfriend to use a county-owned computer. He was charged with petit theft. However, a jury found him not guilty in January.

Reams still has not been reinstated.

During a hearing on Thursday, Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the governor or the Senate must give Reams an opportunity to be heard and make a decision on his status by the November deadline. If not, he will file an injunction for the governor to lift the suspension.

“What it means is that neither the Senate nor the Governor can push this off until 2019. And perhaps as late as May of 2019,” said David Collins, Reams’ attorney. “All we’ve ever wanted is to be heard. We are now expediting this process and due process will be at the front as opposed to being delayed.”


Alex Crescenti | WCTV Eyewitness News
March 20, 2018

JEFFERSON CO., Fla (WCTV) -- Kirk Reams is filing suit against Governor Rick Scott and the State Senate President.

This all stems from his recent criminal case. He was charged with petit theft, accused of allowing his former girlfriend to use a county-owned computer.

Governor Scott suspended Reams from his clerk post last Fall, and a jury found him not guilty in January. However, he still has not been reinstated by the governor after being suspended following the arrest.

Reams' attorney says these actions are unconstitutional and go against the 14th Amendment, and the suspension may have nothing to do with the legal process.

"There were additional sections in the executive order accusing Mr. Reams or maleficence and misfeasance in office that the Governor, I believe, relies upon to keep his suspension in effect," said David Collins.

During the legislative session this year, the senate did not hear Reams' case. According to the complaint, if there is no special session, he will not have his due process until possibly May of 2019.

We reached out to the Governor's office for comment about the suit Tuesday. They responded with just eight words: "We will review it when we receive it."


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
March 20, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Suspended Jefferson County Clerk Kirk Reams is suing to get his job back.

Reams filed suit in Tallahassee's federal court Tuesday.

Reams was arrested and suspended in October 2017 for loaning a county computer to a girlfriend.

He was later found not guilty at trial, but was never reinstated. The Senate did not take any action during the legislative session either.

Reams, who remains suspended without pay, claims Florida law is unfairly keeping him out of office.

We've reached out to the Governor's office for comment and we are speaking with Reams' attorney.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
January 11, 2017

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- Suspended Jefferson County Clerk of Court Kirk Reams has been found not guilty on charges of petit theft.

A jury reached the decision Thursday afternoon on day two of Reams' trial.

Reams was arrested in October on misdemeanor charges, accused of allowing his then-girlfriend to use a county computer for more than a year. Reams was suspended by Governor Scott following the arrest.

When asked how he felt about the verdict following the trial, Reams said, "Well I'm relieved, yes, I would say, vindicated, redeemed, I would say, I'm not going to say if I'm surprised or not, but I would say we put our faith in the process of the judicial system and we are well founded in that."

We reached out to Governor Scott's office to determine if Reams' suspension will be lifted as a result of the verdict.

“In accordance with the Florida Constitution, this issue will come before the Florida Senate,” said the Governor's Press Secretary Lauren Schenone.

Schenone said Reams was suspended due to malfeasance and misconduct and the Senate review would be necessary no matter the outcome of the trial.


By: Erika Fernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 11, 2017

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- Day two in the trial against Kirk Reams took place Thursday in Monticello. Reams is charged with petit theft for allegedly allowing his ex-girlfriend to use a county laptop for a year.

Several witnesses took the stand Thursday morning. The first was the ex-girlfriend herself, Brittany McClellan. She admitted to using the laptop Reams gave her, but said it was mainly for her salon business.

She also admitted to letting some other friends use it to help her set up client personnel for her salon, but said she let them use it for personal searches like email and music.

FDLE investigators said they found McClellan’s claims to be true, stating she used the laptop mainly to buy makeup for her business and store client information. They also found traces of other searches that matched the claims of personal use as well.

Ream’s attorney, David Collins, argued that the former IT technician for Jefferson County, Johnnie Abron, allegedly also let his girlfriend use a county laptop and it was not for county purposes. The defense claimed there is no difference between Abron and the Reams. Collins said the real crime here is the charges filed against Kirk Reams.

The jury is expected to reach a verdict by Thursday afternoon.


Alex Crescenti | WCTV EyeWitness News
January 10, 2018

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Fla (WCTV) -- In Jefferson County, a jury is now set to hear arguments in a former elected officials trial. Ex-Clerk of Court Kirk Reams is accused of misusing county owned property.

"Hopefully if justice is served..Mr. Reams will be back at work soon," said David Collins the attorney for Reams.

On the evening before the trial Collins also not agreeing with Governor Scott's decision to suspend Reams.

"There was a lot of folks down in south Florida that were indicted for felonies and he didn't suspend them, but I guess citizenry going to have to take that up with the governor," said Reams.

Throughout Jefferson County, residents are well aware of the situation. Some saying the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

"It's not right, but I don't think it's that big a deal to warrant a jury trial," said Roy Settergren.

Other agreeing, but say the rules need to be better understood.

"I think that everyone needs to be far my clear as to what is allowable and what is not," said John Brady.

Something a Jefferson County jury will now have to decide. We reached out the prosecution for a comment this afternoon, but they declined. Collins says he expects the trial to last just one day. It will start a 9 a.m.


By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 9, 2018

JEFFERSON CO., Fla. (WCTV) -- Suspended Jefferson County Clerk Kirk Reams will stand trial this week on charges of petit theft.

Reams was arrested on misdemeanor charges after being accused of allowing his then-girlfriend to use a county computer for more than a year.

Reams was suspended by Governor Scott in October.

The State Attorney's Office confirms Reams will stand trial Wednesday and Thursday in Jefferson County.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
October 19, 2017

JEFFERSON CO., Fla. (WCTV) -- Governor Rick Scott has suspended Jefferson County Clerk of Court Kirk Reams after he was accused of allowing his then-girlfriend to use a county laptop for a year.

Reams was arrested Monday on petit theft charges and returned to work on Tuesday.

The misdemeanor charge put Reams' job in jeopardy, as the Florida Governor is allowed by law to suspend elected officials accused of misconduct in office.

The Jefferson County Commission held an emergency meeting Wednesday night and voted unanimously to draft a letter to Governor Scott in support of Reams. They asked that he remain on the job while the misdemeanor charge is pending in court.

Reams has served as Jefferson County Clerk since 2006.


By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 18, 2017

JEFFERSON CO., Fla. (WCTV) -- Jefferson County commissioners voted unanimously to draft a letter in support of Clerk of Court Kirk Reams Wednesday night, asking that he remain on the job while misdemeanor charges are pending in court.

That letter could be sent to the Governor as early as Thursday.


By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 18, 2017

JEFFERSON CO., Fla. (WCTV) -- The Jefferson County Commission is holding an emergency meeting Wednesday night to discuss the petit theft charges leveled against Clerk of Court Kirk Reams.

Reams was arrested Monday and accused of petit theft for allowing his then-girlfriend to use a county laptop for a year. The misdemeanor charge puts Reams' job in jeopardy as the Florida Governor is allowed by law to suspend elected officials accused of misconduct in office.

Jefferson County Coordinator Parrish Barwick says commissioners will vote Wednesday night on sending a letter of support to the Governor.

"We don't know if the Governor would act so quickly, but we wanted to send this letter as soon as possible in support of him keeping his job pending due process in the courts," Barwick said.

The commission's emergency meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Jefferson County Courthouse Annex.


By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 17, 2017

JEFFERSON CO., Fla. (WCTV) -- The Jefferson County Clerk of Court is back at work after his arrest Monday on petit theft charges.

Kirk Reams is accused of allowing his ex-girlfriend to use a county laptop for more than a year.

The State Attorney telling us Tuesday that he's standing by an offer he made Reams to resign or face charges.

"So in your estimation that was a proper and reasonable resolution?"

"Absolutely," State Attorney Jack Campbell said.

Campbell says while he doesn't know what motivated Reams'
ex-girlfriend to step forward now, he denies there are any politics in play.

"I can tell you that there's been no politics... once again we specifically removed it from the Jefferson County officials. The sheriff handled it perfectly. He notified this office, he notified FDLE," Campbell said. "It was FDLE's Executive Investigation Unit that did it for the purpose of keeping it apolitical and clean."

"There's been no politics about the timing ... why she decided to contact law enforcement, I'll leave it to her to decide," Campbell said, "but when we found out of a crime it doesn't matter why."

Reams denies any wrongdoing. He turned himself in at the Jefferson County Jail Monday evening and was given a notice to appear.

His attorney confirms Reams was back at work Tuesday. They are now waiting to see if the governor will opt to suspend him in the wake of that misdemeanor charge.


By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 16, 2017

JEFFERSON CO., Fla. (WCTV) -- Jefferson County's Clerk of Court has been charged with a misdemeanor, accused of allowing his then-girlfriend to use a county laptop.

Kirk Reams turned himself in Monday evening. WCTV was on scene as Reams walked into the Jefferson County Jail just after 5 p.m.

"My only comment would be that I'm not guilty of any crimes," Reams said, "And I look forward to my day in court and until then I'm just, you know, I'm looking forward to getting back to the people's work of Jefferson County."

The sheriff confirmed he had a warrant for Reams' arrest on petit theft charges. The allegations focus on the use of a county laptop by Reams' then-girlfriend for more than a year.

The alleged misuse spanned from January 2013 to January 2014. FDLE started investigating after Reams' girlfriend claimed he took nude photos of her inside the courthouse. Arrest papers claim she used the computer and shared it with friends.

The laptop was "an otherwise non-used county laptop," Reams' attorney, David Collins said. "So I'm waiting to see what the explanation's going to be for depriving the citizens or the commission of the use of this property. We do know it was returned a long time ago."

Reams refused a deal that would have allowed him to resign instead of facing charges.

"That wasn't what we felt a proper option," Collins said. "It may be in some people's eyes, but we did not feel that, so we are going to pursue a jury trial."

Reams was booked at the Jefferson County Jail and given a notice to appear in court.

The misdemeanor charge could affect Reams' job. Florida statutes say the governor can suspend any elected official arrested for a misdemeanor related to "the duties of office."

Reams has served as Jefferson County clerk since 2006.



 
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