ECB Publishing, Inc.
Newly-reinstated Clerk of Court Kirk Reams was back in his office on Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, engaging with members of his staff and trying to catch up on a year's worth of lost county business.
“I feel great,” Reams said, resting back in his chair. “I feel like I got my life back, or at least a good part of it. I'm looking forward to doing again the work of the people of Jefferson County.”
Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, Nov. 30, signed a brief executive order revoking and terminating the year-plus-long suspension of Reams and reinstating him to office effective Dec. 1.
Did he bear the governor any ill will for the protracted suspension?
Reams chose his words carefully.
“I feel like I should have been reinstated when I was found not guilty on the petit theft charge,” he said. “For whatever reason, it didn't happen. But that's been rectified and I'm now ready to move forward.”
Reams reiterated that what had kept him going during his suspension was the support that he received from people who believed in him, offered him encouragement, and expressed their desire to see him return to office.
“I'm grateful to those hundreds of people who stood by me and encouraged me to fight on,” Reams said.
“They'll never understand how much it meant to me.”
Scott suspended Reams on Oct. 18, 2017, following a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation that resulted in two findings against Reams.
The first was that Reams had misused his official position to enter the courthouse after hours “to engage in inappropriate conduct with a paramour.”
The second was that he had “allowed the paramour unauthorized access to, and use of, a county laptop computer.”
Reams was never formally charged with the first allegation, although the Governor referenced it in his suspension order when he cited Reams' commission of “malfeasance and/or misfeasance”, code words for abuse of his official position of public trust through improper acts.
Meanwhile, a jury exonerated Reams of the misdemeanor charge of petit-theft on Jan. 11 of this year. Typically in the past, when a jury exonerated a suspended public official of a charge, the governor almost automatically reinstated the person. In the case of Reams, however, neither the governor or the Senate took any action following the jury's verdict.
On March 20, Reams filed suit in federal court to have his case heard before the Governor or Senate and be reinstated. That case was argued before U.S. District Judge Hinkle in October. And on Nov. 6, the judge issued a 13-page order that was unquestionably favorable to Reams.
Hinkle ruled that Scott and the Senate had violated Reams' right to due process and ordered that the governor must end the suspension by Nov. 30, unless he afforded Reams a hearing or the Senate acted to reinstate or remove him.
Attorney David Collins, who represented Reams at his trial and throughout the legal proceedings, characterized the judge's order as a win for his client and a scorching indictment of the Governor and the Senate.