Lawsuit accuses county leaders of conspiracy against company

Published: May. 20, 2016 at 6:30 PM EDT
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A Valley business finds out that Augusta County elected officials are exchanging more than 8,000 emails about them. In one of the threads, a Hitler emoji is used. Now, Nexus company (which advertises at WHSV) is accusing the county of starting a witch-hunt against them.

They are bringing their concerns to court. The $1 million lawsuit, nearly 100 pages long, claims there's a conspiracy to ruin the reputation of the charitable branch of Nexus.

Nexus has a program where they bail out inmates who can not afford the bail money. The company believes local for-profit bondsmen are threatened by their business model and also that Augusta County doesn't trust Nexus. Among the 24 defendants are Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith, a sheriff's deputy, the county's commissioner of revenue, and a local bail bondsman.

The emails were released via a Freedom Of Information Act request by Nexus. In one of them, bondsman David Bourne tells an Augusta County deputy who previously worked under him, "This whole thing smells real bad."

There were emails upon emails of suspicion and accusations. In another email to the Augusta County commonwealth's attorney, Bourne allegedly said: "They are running a scam on the communities... these are con men and wicked smart" and "None of us can compete with free bail."

At the end of another email thread, a county tax auditor puts a Hitler emoji. Michael Donovan, CEO of Nexus, says the use of this image could be racially charged. He also believes it may be an attack on the LGBTQ-friendly policy of Nexus.

"This bondsman and these government actors and these elected officials conspiring to hurt something that I've created --that I know has helped hundreds and hundreds of people-- it's personal, it's sad," said Donovan.

WHSV reached out the main four defendants named in the lawsuit. The only one to respond was Sheriff Smith's chief deputy, William Spence, who tells us they will not be commenting. That's because of advice from their lawyers.

This is a story we'll continue to follow.