Emails Show Va. Dem Delegate Made Staffer Work for Private Business

Lawsuit alleges staffer forced into unpaid work for delegate's health care consulting firm

Dawn Adams
Dawn Adams / Facebook

A former staffer to Virginia Democratic delegate Dawn Adams asserted in a lawsuit that Adams asked her to do work for the delegate's side business in health care consulting, a claim backed up by emails reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The emails also show some of that work may have exposed the private health care information of patients to the staffer.

In July, legislative aide Maureen Hains sued Adams in federal court alleging Adams had forced her to do work for Adams's health care consulting business. The suit also alleges that Adams tried to "hack" some of Hains's accounts, such as email and Facebook accounts, in an attempt to delete evidence of the work.

In an email provided to and reviewed by the Free Beacon, Hains wrote to Adams, "I sorted them alphabetically and by location," apparently referring to a log of patients. The log included the dates patients were seen, the patients' dates of birth, and diagnosis codes that correspond to each individual.

In another email, Hains says, "So I'm not sure I'm reading your handwriting correctly on all of this, especially on [name withheld for privacy reasons] – it looks like the first two codes are formatted differently, no letter in the front? Not sure."

Both emails date to the summer of 2018, and the second email also appears to reference a list of patients and corresponding diagnosis codes.

"Delegate Adams is committed to the privacy of patients' medical information and has not, and would not, consent to sharing protected health information in a public forum," Adams's attorney, Cullen Seltzer, told the Free Beacon.

"It is not secret that Ms. Hains worked for Delegate Adams during a previous campaign and as her legislative aide," he added. "It is also not secret that Ms. Hains provided some limited assistance to Delegate Adams's private business. This assistance was short in duration and likely did not consume more than approximately ten hours over several months."

No portion of the emails reviewed by the Free Beacon appeared to support or contradict the accusations in the complaint that Adams hacked into social media, banking, and email accounts belonging to Hains.

"Adams used Hains' password without authorization to access Hains' Gmail and Google Drive accounts by false pretenses, to obtain Hains' property, including email and files, and delete some of emails and files, in violation of the [Virginia Computer Crimes Act]," the complaint says.

Hains further claims Adams accessed some of her online banking records.

The suit points to an email Hains received from her bank alerting her to suspended online access because of "a possible unauthorized attempt to sign on to [her] account."

Attorneys for Hains did not respond to requests for comment.

Hains is asking for $550,000 in damages related to the accusations of privacy breaches, and is arguing she performed unpaid labor for Adams by assisting in the medical coding work and other tasks related to Adams's consulting business.

The lawsuit says that near the end of 2018, "Hains was working full time as Adams' Legislative Assistant, performing a substantial amount of ICD-10 medical coding for Adams for no pay, and serving, also for no pay, as the de facto manager and communications director of Adams' reelection campaign until a campaign manager could be hired."

The suit further lays out a timeline of how Hains believes Adams conspired to hack various internet-accessible accounts.

While hospitalized in April of this year, Hains said Adams contacted her asking for her Facebook login information "purportedly so Adams could remove Hains as an administrator for the Delegate Adams Facebook page."

The aide believes that Adams was able to use that information to access her online banking and email accounts, "since, at the time, she used the same user name and password for other accounts," the filing says.

The lawsuit briefly touches on the possible exposure of others' private health information, but makes no request for any kind of damages in that regard. Because Hains was not the person harmed by those actions, she would likely lack standing to press legal action.

In late August, attorneys for Adams filed a response asking the court to dismiss most of the claims.

As noted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Adams and her attorneys "don't deny she attempted to access or actually accessed Hains' Facebook and Gmail accounts." The Times-Dispatch also quoted a statement from the Adams campaign in which the delegate said, "I strongly deny all claims."

All seats in the Virginia house and senate are on the ballot this November in what is certain to be a closely watched state legislature battle with national implications.

The race to win a majority in the house could affect the state's redistricting for congressional boundaries. Virginia currently has 11 congressional districts and is not expected to gain or lose seats after completion of the 2020 census.

Billionaire political activist and presidential candidate Tom Steyer has committed $1 million in funding for voter registration drives aimed mainly at younger voters in hopes of helping Democrats win the lower chamber in Virginia.